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MY IRELAND 




BLARNEY CASTLE, NEAR CORK, BriLT NEARLY FIVE 
YEARS ACK) 



MY IRELAND 



BY 



LORD DUNSANY 



ILLUSTRATED 




FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

1937 



FUNK * WAGNALLS COMPANY 
CPrinted la the United it! 

First publiAfaml Stpitmhrr, $u? 






tht df lie 

of tlM Pui-Amerfcaa mi iim 



Contents 



JL * *** * ** A 

IL TARA ....... IO 

III. ST. PATRICK ...... 1 8 

IV. OLD MICKEY ...... 26 

V. FRANCIS LEDWIDGE .... 46 

VL HOW THE STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM . 62 

VIL A LAPSE OF MEMORY .... 74 

VIIL JACK-SNIPE ....... 83 

IX. WOODCOCK ...... 93 

X* GRAY LAGS ...... 101 

XL BUSINESS ...... K>8 

XII. JOHN WATSON ..... 121 

XIII. THE STATE OF THE MOON . . .127 

XIV. SWANS ....... 136 

XV. A BIT OF PHILOSOPHY STRAYS INTO 

THE WRONG BOOK . . . .149 

XVI. SNIPE ....... 156 

XVIL SITTING FOR DUCK . 164 

XVIII. GOLDEN PLOVER . . . , - 173 



vi CONTENTS 

CHARTS! 

XIX. WEEDS AND * . . * * 1% 

XX. THE WIND AND THE WET AGAINST 

THE COTTAGES . . - . .190 

XXL ONLY ABOUT THE - . 2OO 

XXII. A GREAT HUNT ..... 207 

XXIII. A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT , * . 214 

XXI?. ST. STEPHEN ...... 226 

XXV. A RIDE TO LBIXLIP . . . * . 232 

XXVI. DIIN6 WITH THE . . , 241 

XXVII. MAGIC ....... 247 

XXVIIL CRICKET ...... 254 

XXIX. DUBLIN ....... 262 

XXX. A CONVERSATION IN , , 272 

XXXL GROWING OATS IN THE , . 279 

XXXIL FAREWELL ...... 285 



Illustrations 

FACING PAGE 

Blarney Castle . . . . Frontispiece 

A Thatched Cottage . * . . . . 16 

An Ancient Peat Bog - * ..17 

Ruins of Bective Abbey ..... 64 

Gathering Peat for Fuel . . . . 65 

Sunset over the River Shannon at Athlone . 80 

Early Morning in Limerick . . * * 81 
Newtown Abbey on the Boyne . . . .120 

Off for a Hunt with Horses and Hounds . 121 

Ruins of Muckross Abbey 184 

Passing One of the Beautiful Lakes of Killarney 185 

The Giant s Causeway 248 

Ballyshannon 249 

Black Rock Castle 280 

A Misty Morning in the Town of Killarney 281 



A.E. 



I 



F I let myself be lured to attempt to distil a story 
from so wide an area as Ireland, it seems to me 
that I should somehow get some clear view of it. 
How shall I get that? Shall it be by motoring over 
every road in Ireland? I think not: the material 
would be too much for use, and I should see so 
much that was new to me, and so see it almost as a 
stranger. I will rather look again at fields and 
streams that I know, and the view of them may 
strengthen and brighten my memories, and so I 
shall tell of the Ireland that I know best And 
whence shall I see most of it? Fortunately the spot 
from which one can see most of Ireland is a field 
that stands in the center of Irish history, and is but 
a few hundred yards from the edge of my own 
land. It is Tara. So there I will go. 

When I came to Tara and looked over the plain 
of Meath there was a storm like a litde lost thing, 
in the west, going before a south wind with the 
sunlight chasing it Green fields turned silvery 
under it as it came. The skirts of the rain went 
before it, and intensely bright fields flashed where 
the storm had not yet come. It shadowed a county, 



2 MY IRELAND 

with silvery-green parishes standing out clear here 
and there, and went away to the north, where hills 
were gleaming in sunlight; for storms over this 
plain seem to pass like travelers, like dark men 
walking rarely along a wide road that forgets them. 
Far off, like happy ghosts, the Dublin Mountains 
smiled where the passing shafts of sunlight touched 
them. They sit and smile at one end of that pano 
rama, which goes from them in the south round 
by Slieve Bloom and the Hill of Usnagh, past all 
the hills beyond Oldcastle, to where the Mourne 
Mountains looking upon the sea end the great view 
away in the northeast 

So let me begin my memories at the feet of those 
mountains that give a continual surprise and beauty 
to Dublin; for you suddenly catch a sight of them 
looking down the end of a street, and their wild 
and lovely heads whenever seen seem something 
you did not expect to see from a city. Much has 
been lost to Dublin in my time, for instance the 
Four Courts and the Customs House. And though 
the Customs House has been rebuilt, and most of 
the Four Courts, yet they both seem to me dead. 
I had this feeling only the other day as I passed 
the Four Courts ; the feeling was so strong that I 
knew that I must have seen something that made 
this certain, but my intellect was not quick enough 
to make out what it was. All I could notice was 
that the great coats of arms with their life-sized 



A. E. 3 

supporters were shattered, but beyond them the 

buildings had the air of repaired ruins, with all 
their windows neatly filled with glass* They are 
still standing there, while A. E. is dead; and yet 
when my memories revisit Dublin the presence of 
A. E. appears so vivid that It seems as though he 
still lived or his work were immortal To tell of 
the Ireland 1 know, without telling something of 
that rare spirit produced by it, would be like tell 
ing of Irish ields and forgetting the shamrock. 
He edited an agricultural paper in a room at the 
top of a house in Merrion Square, And there he 
worked all day. Over a large desk, heaped with 
untidiness l a window shone, and through the win 
dow a glimpse of the Dublin Mountains* 

All round the dingy room A* E. had gone with 
his brush, making a fairyland from floor to ceiling* 
Figures with plumes and aureoles over their heads 
walked there in a little too bright for this 

earth, but helping perhaps to mitigate for A. E. 
the tedium of agricultural economics and making 
the average of his surroundings tolerable for him. 
But, for all that, 1 never saw him at his work with 
out a certain memory of Las Palmas when^ young 
and full of the romance of the camel and the deserts 
that he roved, I saw him harnessed to a roller. 
"He is doing t hundred times more useful work 
where he is thtn he would be by writing poetry/ 1 
stid the owner of A* E. s roller. But one man in 



4 MY IRELAND 

every thousand could have done the economics for 
that agricultural paper quite as well as A. E. did ; 
while if among the four million in Ireland there is 
now one who can do A. E. s other work, I shall be 
very glad to hear of him, but doubtful of the news ; 
though I hope that within a hundred years there 
may be such another. 

Nor is there any comparison between the good 
that a man may do to his fellows by teaching them 
sound business principles (if business has princi 
ples) , and on the other hand by telling them some 
thing of the spirit and what it has seen on the way. 
The upholders of the first kind of work always win 
their shallow arguments by showing precisely in 
pounds, shillings and pence just what is the gain 
to man, while the upholders of the other kind know 
that here is a value that pounds and shillings and 
pence are all three of them equally unable to esti 
mate. We do not even know the price of a dawn. 

The above remarks may throw some light on the 
strange circumstance that, although there is a depth 
in A. E. s thought and a melody in its expression 
that is worthy of a great poet, yet the quantity of 
his work is rather that of a poet who had died 
young, than of one who had attained as he did to 
the years of the psalmist Of the quality of those 
lovely lyrics Posterity will judge ; and I believe we 
are right in supposing that Posterity judges unerr 
ingly; but Posterity would be saved a good deal 



A, E. 5 

of time In making up its mind if it could have the 
advantage that I have had, of hearing A. E. read 
his own poems himself. The sonorous melody that 
was at all times In his voice rose then to Its full 
splendor; so that there was the difference between 
reading his verse and hearing him read it, that 
there Is between reading music and hearing it from 
an organ. Not that there Is an essential difference; 
for music can ring In a musician s imagination as 
clearly as down the aisles, and poetry, to those that 
care for it, should give all its aroma from the 
printed page; but It certainly saved trouble to hear 
It thus, and enabled one to be sure, without any 
strain on one s intellect, that this was great poetry. 
Alas that it was so scant A heavy stone flies 
further than a light one. And yet if the light one 
that is thrown be a diamond, may not the brilliance 
of Its flash be seen beyond the distance that Its 
heavier rival can travel? And so A* E. s slender 
books may come to a far posterity. 

Perhaps in writing of this remarkable Irishman 
it Is least necessary for me to write of his poetry, 
for that Is printed for all the world to see, and it 
would be far better to buy one of A* E. s books 
than to read what I have to say of them, as it Is 
better to read any poetry in the world than any 
commentator upon it; but 1 should say something 
of his mind, as I came to know it through many 
conversations. It seemed as though he were always 



6 MY IRELAND 

looking back down the ages eastwards, in the direc 
tion from which the Irish people are said to have 
come. Indeed in this one man s mind I should 
look for evidence of that old journey as readily as 
in a page of history. There would come an eager 
look in his blue eyes and bearded face, such as one 
might compare to the look on the face of a child 
seeing jam through a window; through the dim 
ages he would peer thus at some old Indian philos 
ophy, and speak of the things of the spirit as though 
they were nearer to us than any material thing. 
I was once speaking of A. E. at a public meeting, 
and I mentioned the strange orientalism of his out 
look, and his philosophy that was strange in a man 
who had never been to India. My chairman, Mr. 
Robin Flower, speaking afterwards, said that A. E. 
had himself told him that he had been to India. 
The audience pricked up its ears at this conflict of 
opinion between chairman and speaker; and well 
it might, for it heard a most remarkable story. 
A. E. had told Mr. Flower that he was once walk 
ing in Ireland past a row of poplars standing at 
regular intervals, and as he passed the second pop 
lar his soul suddenly left his body and flew to India. 
There it entered the body of a child, and dwelt 
there, and lived in an Indian village. His memory 
of that village was very clear; he spent his life 
there. He grew to manhood in that village; and 
then one day some tribe from beyond the village 



A. E. 7 

went to war with It, and in the fighting A. E. was 
killed. His soul returned to his body, and A. E. 
noticed at the end of that life s story that he was 
just walking past the third poplar tree. 

But there Is another part of A. E. s mind that I 
must not forget, for any account of him that neg 
lected it would be very deficient; and that is his 
generosity. To young poets he would give en 
couragement straight from the spirit, which he 
himself valued so much more than gold. There 
are, I suppose, various ways of writing poetry, but 
what A. E. wrote was poetry because he himself 
was a poet and whatever came from that great 
hearted source was poetry, as what comes from 
springs Is water. Besides the room at the top of 
the house with a view of the Dublin Mountains, in 
which A. E., helped by Miss Susan Mitchell, her 
self a poet, brought out of a heap of untidiness, 
which as he once told me gave a touch of Chaos 
to his writing-table, the agricultural paper, he was 
also to be seen in his house in Rathgar Avenue, 
where on Sunday evenings he always had a recep 
tion for such as cared to come, mostly poets. It was 
there that I first met James Stephens, a man soon 
to make a name as great as A. B,*s, but then excited 
by the approaching appearance of his first book, 
and telling us how he would stand still and ga^e 
Into the window of the bookshop when he saw his 
book there, and yet not believing that such an event 



8 MY IRELAND 

would ever come to pass ; thinking rather that Fate 
would let him live until a day or two before the 
book was to appear in that window and would then 
snatch everything away from him. Events showed 
that he misjudged Fate, but I do think that all the 
rest that he said on that occasion showed a very 
proper spirit of a worker towards his work. And 
as Puck found a patron in Oberon, so with this very 
similar pair James Stephens found help and en 
couragement from A. E., until he no longer needed 
them. 

I mention lastly A. E/s pictures; lastly because, 
although they mirrored A. E/s mind and the splen 
did plumed figures that walked there, and although 
they captured Irish evenings, their colored twi 
lights touched to a deeper radiance by A. E. s im 
agination, yet the actual work of his brush had not 
the supreme artistry of his pen ; the same vision of 
mystery and evening and Ireland when expressed 
by him in melody must, I think, be more enduring 
than what he was able to express of it upon canvas. 
He was so Irish in his poetry and in his love of the 
hills and streams of Ireland, and even in his Orien 
tal air, that we may hope that some man something 
like him may one of these days be found in Ireland 
again ; but not in my time ; and, even if there were, 
he would not to me be compensation for the loss of 
those eyes that seemed to peer, far from the dingy 



A. E. 9 

room that he made less dingy, past books upon 
economics, past even the Dublin Mountains, to 
catch flashes and glimpses of what his strange spirit 
knew were the things that really mattered. 



1! 

IET us go to Tara, all the 

their 

they were 

by t thing; for neither the 

nor nor de 

prived the hill of its it was a curse of 

the tie of Tara into long 

and the up over all of 

the of whom 

them be- 

the tad all to Tara. Did they 

ice Tara up like an to 

early Or was it only the place 

for cattle, a for the neigh- 

of the in Europe, 

tad i to see the ap 

proach of any a for for a 

he from any 

direction? 

the for 

and Tara of the 

of the t 

a for the of t are to 

10 



T4RA ii 

make any name In history: It Is about twenty miles 
from the sea. Of course the distance varies among 
capitals ; but hardly any of them are on the coast, 
for they would have been too tempting to pirates, 
and would never have survived Infancy; and they 
are seldom far from the sea, for they could take no 
great part, If they were, In the affairs of the world* 
Tara, however, had not all the requisites of a great 
capital, for it had no river to link It up with the 
sea* Had Rome, London, or Paris been without 
their rivers, or Constantinople without Its inlet, 
other histories would have to have been written 
than those we read. Their water they got at Tara 
from a spring, below the top of the hill on the 
eastern side, and It Is a holy well to this day. 
Nearly all such springs in Ireland are holy: the 
mystery of them, their brightness and their value, 
probably appealed to the Irish people, who have 
so much mystery in their story; and they dedicated 
them to their gods. Later there came the saints; 
and, when Ireland was converted to Christianity, 
these wells remained as reminders that the people 
had not always been quite so civilized. So the 
priests, who could not stop the wells being holy, 
picketed each one with a saint, and now they are 
St John s well and St James s well and St Peter s 
well that are dotted about the country. 

When I came to Tara, lines of pale clouds, like 
the ghosts of kings, were passing over the hill as 



la MY IRELAND 

1 up to it They far In the west; to 

the the Mourne Mountains, like a fam 

ily of out for a in the were 

in the of they arc 

seen in while s* miles 

the of the Bloom 

lifting from County a upon 

the sky no and to be 

In the the Dublin ( 
still All the, 

to to Tara seen, 

I at 

hourly; and yet to mind 

mountains a of that 

our and our and our no 

to 

The of which history in Ireland) 

from the far end of Europe, and that 

that 

They to in of Ttrt the Dub 

lin and It the Plain 

of the of Birds, and for a 

till they ill by the They 

all died in one on the of the of 

was the of the 

Firbolgs* 

the only of to 

in that in wts ill what 

remained? It the cli f the the 



TARA 13 

fox, the wild boar and the hare, before the Firbolgs 
came? Or was there some other race of men, of 
whom history does not tell ? As history is silent we 
turn to legend. And there is abundant evidence 
of an earlier race than any we know today, and in 
all probability earlier than the Firbolgs. f Who are 
the people that coipe out at evening to dance on the 
ooraths, the folk to whom old thorns are sacred? No 
(J^age has been without tales of them, and the reign 
J^of King George VI is no exception ; only they must 
)Obe asked after very carefully, or the answer will 
^be that no such folk have been seen. I think that 
they must actually have been there, and that they 
survived many conquests. There is a ring of truth 
about the dance round the raths; for those green 
^ mounds were hollow ; there are several within sight 
i\^of Tara into which you can crawl to this day; and 
these raths the defeated race may have lived 
e eviction was almost Impossible, coming out 
for exercise at night and sometimes dimly seen just 
before twilight hid them* After the last of them 
todied, the fear of the small shapes of an injured race 
"^furtive and dim In the dusk may have lingered on 
for ages, until mothers warning their children 
^against the little people may have begun to lose 
their own fear of them, and yet handed a fear on. 
And so a memory of them haunts the Irish twilight 
to this day, and few will willingly dig into a rath 
or cut down an old thora. 



i 4 MY IRELAND 

And then, says legend, the Nemedians came, 
from Scythia, and were harassed by northern 
pirates, who harassed them still after they had 
landed in Ireland. And after many battles one 
ship s crew of the Nemedians fled and came to 
Greece, and were the ancestors, so legend tells, of 
the Firbolgs; who centuries later escaped from 
some oppression in Greece, and settled in Ireland 
and held it thirty-six years, when they were de 
feated by the Dedannaans. This people s burial 
grounds lie under the hills that one sees to the 
north of Tara, low hills rising and dipping; with 
the shoulder of a mountain seen wherever they dip, 
like a giant stooping beyond them: under them 
flows the Boyne, and along its banks are the 
mounds of the Dedannaans. 

And in their turn the Dedannaans became a 
myth, to be told of as fairies, and the Milesians 
ruled in their country; coming, they say, from 
Scythia and traveling slowly, so many hundred 
miles in a generation, and looking for the Isle of 
Destiny. The fight of which legend tells between 
the Milesians and the Dedannaans appears to have 
been a fight of sword against magic, the Dedan 
naans relying mainly on magic; but, whatever 
happened, the Milesians came to Tara and thence 
ruled all Ireland. 

And in the Milesians time legend merges into 
history, till one comes on authentic names, and 



TARA 15 

battles that none doubts ; and one does not read that 
earliest history long before one sees that none of 
the disputes of our time are new* About the year 
100 the Milesians were asked what they were doing 
in those parts, oppressing the people of the coun 
try; and many of them were murdered. For a 
while after that the Milesian kings were in exile; 
until their monarchy was restored under Tuathal, 
who extended the estate of the High King of Ire 
land, from being only the land that lay round Tara, 
to be the whole of Meath. Looking from Tara one 
sees a pale blue mountain, far beyond Trim and to 
the left of the line of it; to the right of the Slieve 
Bloom Mountains, that is to say to the north of 
them. This pale blue sapphire set in the western 
sky is the Hill of Usnagh, lying beyond Eden- 
derry ; and on it there was a stone, and is to this day, 
called the Stone of the Divisions, where all the four 
provinces of Ireland met; and round this stone 
Tuathal cut out the new province for himself, the 
province of Meath, taking a bit from all four. 
Tuathal also imposed a tribute upon the Kings of 
Leinster, but could seldom draw his tents without 
a battle. 

In the year 177, Conn was King of Tara, and he 
had a great taste for fighting* And the King of 
Munster had an equal taste for it, so they made 
history and legend, between them, for a great many 
years. And Conn became known as Conn of the 



16 MY IRELAND 

Hundred Battles; but, when he had lost ten of 
them, he agreed to divide Ireland with Owen 
More, King of Munster, and they chose a line of 
low steep sandhills running across Ireland, as their 
boundary. These sandhills are so small and steep 
that they almost look artificial, as though an army 
had thrown up a great rampart; and certainly a 
better line of defense could hardly be made, and 
no doubt armies recognized this and held it when 
they came to it, so that it was a very likely line to 
be chosen to be a frontier* 

And yet the steep rampart is not artificial, but 
was made by glaciers, going through Ireland with 
their noses down in the soil, like pigs looking for 
truffles, and grinding the rocks as they went ; and 
then, when the world s axis turned more to the sun 
again and they melted, all the ground rock that 
had lain as sand on their backs lay in a long heap 
where the edge of the iceberg had been. These 
hills are called eskers among geologists all over 
the world ; and esker is the one word that the Irish 
language has given to science. It is a wobble in 
Earth s axis that brings these glaciers, and that 
shifts the arctic circle nearly as far south as Paris, 
when the northern end of the axis is furthest away 
from the sun; which they say occurs once every 
fifty thousand years. 

I know some miles of those sandhills well ; they 
cross all the roads running south from Tara, and 
only a few miles away from it; sometimes they are 




a 
7 



TARA 17 

bare; sometimes pine trees stand along them, as 
though trees had gone to war and the pines were 
holding the high ground against willows or what 
ever dwells in the marsh ; and sometimes they are 
covered with gorse, as between Trim and Galtrim, 
and then they make fine fox-coverts, and the sandy 
heights have people standing along them when we 
draw the gorse with the Meath, as eager to see all 
that they can of the hunt, as no doubt their forbears 
were to see all they could of the battle, whenever 
Conn and Owen More came to loggerheads, as they 
very soon did again ; and this time Owen More was 
killed, and the frontier must have lost its impor 
tance, to become in course of time a historical fea 
ture, and then an object of interest to geologists, 
and in many places quarries for sand. 

Conn was succeeded by his son Connary, and he 
by Cormac Mac Art. A hundred years later Niall 
of the Nine Hostages reigned, the ancestor of the 
O Neills, and that brings us to the end of the fourth 
century. Looking once westwards from Tara, I 
saw before me rows and rows of trees, thin dark 
lines with the mist in layers between them; and I 
thought how history was like that, a sentence or 
two of fact, and mystery thickly in between the 
lines* A few trees at the edge of the hill were sigh 
ing mournfully, and the wind that troubled them 
seemed to bring the evening on, for soon the mist 
had hidden the whole scene, like Time effacing 
history. 



Ill 
St. 

IF we on Tara with our to the 

and the of the la 

Trim tap In the on our left, we arc 

to a line of low not 

far and one of Is It is the 

433 that 1 to tell of, and eve, 

King was a at Tara* We 

sec he for the was 

thickly and the hill of 

will be but we in the 

century and at the of 

and Its still In of us 

Ing Tara as 

Let us as ! did one 

day tad late, the 

eye, not sec at 

as the eye of ; but at we arc 

ing tad the 

of ire aid 

Ing a fir la the 

be the Hill 01 
and 
oa the of the they are 

18 



ST. PATRICK 19 

drawing curtains across another mountain, and 
there they are shrouding far woods* A cornfield 
shines like a picture on a dark wall. A night-like 
shower, reaching down from a cloud, has hidden 
the far mountain* Bright clouds appear in the 
west and begin to be colored, so that you can un 
derstand people imagining Heaven from here, or 
an earlier people picturing Tirnan-Og, which was 
still King Laegaire s Heaven. It grows brighter. 
As fingers of storm darken fields, slanting fingers 
of light illuminate other fields or pick out steeples, 
or irradiate a lazy cloud of smoke* The mountains 
more to the north seem to know nothing of all the 
darkness that, bedecked with one or two gleaming 
fields, covers all the west And now the somber 
frown of the wood of Fahan is lit with ruby. And 
now one sees through the darkness hiding Meath, 
to where in the west there is no storm at all The 
mountains there are small and pale blue, as the 
mountains of Fairyland might be; due north they 
are deep indigo, while away northeastwards the 
Mournes stand far aloof, a bluish gray above, and 
so pale a blue below as almost to be severed from 
earth by invisible air. To the left of them, and 
nearer than they, stands the hill of Slane. 

Night comes on quietly, with very few lights 
twinkling out in the plain, and none at all when 
Laegaire looked, for he was about to light a fire to 
gods of his, and he had a law that no one at this 



20 MY IRELAND 

time might make any other light And then a flame 
shot up from the top of the hill of Slane fif 
teen hundred and three years ago, and it was St. 
Patrick lighting his paschal fire. The King s 
druids on Tara were naturally against that fire, and 
against St. Patrick when he appeared at Tara next 
day; but were I to go back all those years to write 
of religious animosities in Ireland, like a man leav 
ing Newcastle to look for coal, I might be taken 
to task by critics for neglecting our own time. Suf 
fice it to say that the King s chief poet first accepted 
the new faith, and helped St. Patrick to preach it; 
and the druids probably said, although it had very- 
likely been said before, "You can never be sure 
that a poet will be quite sound in religion." 

So St. Patrick went from Tara, unhindered by 
the High King, although he had not converted 
him, and went westwards preaching and spreading 
the Christian faith. So that, as we stand on Tara, 
we look over land that knew Christianity when in 
most other lands there were still being worshiped 
gods against whom I do not wish to say anything 
critical, but who certainly had a liking for human 
sacrifice (if their priests understood their wishes) , 
a custom with which since the teaching of Patrick 
no Irishmen have had anything to do for any 
Cause except politics. 

For a hundred and thirty more years after St. 
Patrick came, Tara remained the seat of the Irish 



Sl\ PATRICK 21 

kings; and then came the conflict, that other coun 
tries besides Ireland have known, between the Gov 
ernment and the power of the priests* And the 
priests won, for they intrigued against Tara, or, 
as legend tells us, they cursed it; and the kings left 
Tara, and the halls of Tara fell, and nothing now 
remains to mark the home of so many dynasties but 
long green ridges showing the great length of the 
hall, and burial mounds and one ancient stone. 
The stone is thought by some to be the Stone of 
Destiny, the Lia Fail of which legend speaks* 
That it is ancient is obvious, being of pre-Christian 
shape; but it seems to me unlikely to be the Lia 
Fail, because it is told that the kings were crowned 
standing upon that stone, and you could not stand 
upon this stone unless you happened to be a bird. 
Who walk round it to this day I do not know; and 
that, I should say, you are not likely to see; but 
certainly the stone retains some ancient reputation, 
for the grass all round it is trodden, and evidently 
many people walk carefully round it I was look 
ing at this one day when a man came by with a dog, 
and I knew from the look of the dog that the man 
was a herder, but not the herder of those fields ; he 
was walking too fast for that, and he turned out 
to be a man coming up the hill from the west, 
looking for a goat that had strayed. The goat had 
come to fields of the man that employed him two 
or three years before, and he had thought it lucky, 



*a MY 

for it Is to be if a to 

In your but it off to 

and the was it This 

1 will a lot Ire- 

1 do, so 1 got into 
and Tart he 

"The country to 

the lie "for they It the 

Milesians** 1 

"They that," 1 

"Sure, It right," Slid he; 

it the Tuatha de 
"That was a shame," 1 
c< lt was not/ 1 he, "for it only 
right, for it the 

"Then the to It now, 11 1 

"Ah, 11 he "they not, for 

be all Dublin that got it 

for the them.** 

"Wouldn t that be a pity? 11 1 to get 

at his 

And he for It 

he "for we be any 

free then, 11 
"Free is t fine thing/* I 
"There s he 0ne 

And I saw t in his 

that 



ST. PATRICK 23 

" Would you like to come as far as my car?" I 
said. "I have a small flask of whisky in it." 

u The light of Heaven to you in the next world," 
he said, "and glory and riches in this." 

As that whisky went down, the evening was 
descending on Tara. There had been bright sun 
all day, but now the haze was shutting out all the 
hills; within the circle of it lay the fields that are 
the daily concern of those that till or graze them; 
beyond it the hills lay unseen, like myth beyond 
history. And I thought what a store and treasure 
of myth that man would have in his mind ; but I 
did not ask him about it, any more than one troubles 
bankers to tell you how much money they have, 
still less to give you some of it: had I asked him 
straight out about the Fairy People he would prob 
ably have disowned them, and we should both of 
us have felt awkward. When I think how small 
the country is, and how much inbred are the 
people, I think the chances are hundreds to one 
that he is descended from many of the kings and 
their druids who knew the hall of Tara before 
they fell out with the priests. 

We talked a little more of Milesians and Fir- 
bolgs ; but I do not write what he told me here, as 
it is at variance with things I have written already, 
as is often the case with legend, whence comes a 
pleasing variety. And then he walked away by 



24 MY IRELAND 

4 

the way he had the west- 

wards ? as he had his 

a Arc giving up your search?" 1 
"Ah f isn t it only a old goat," he 

back to me, on f wily as 

the of the 

for him. 

Then of a iait at 

the plain, with g Iving 

tad to was left of the 

a of the as of 

on the 

plateau* For a moment 1 
by the of it; when It suddenly me that, 

In this that 1 am planning to 

lreland t there is only thing that will 

want to hear, a thing without which the will 
be totally uninstructive, that is What the 
people of Ireland actually think of the form 
of 

Whom I ask about this? 1 

fairly Whom 1 

on Tara, it me 

in the of is t 

of is a in- 

you 

are 

you want the 

happen to be out you go to see 



ST. PATRICK 25 

gone to stop a bit of a gap in a hedge, or being over 
beyond In a neighboring village, where they have 
gone to see a man about a dog ; or, worst of all, they 
may be dead. So I decided that it was of a charac 
ter of fiction that I would inquire; and, happening 
to know fairly well one that was called Old 
Mickey, I decided that he was the man for this 
essential information. 
I would go to Old Mickey. 



IV 
Old 

So to 1 went; 

he sat, in a la his 

the of a lying 

hid in the the 

you can sec Tara, 

* 4 Aad the general?" was the first 

I him, partly cine not go 

to the point, whatever in Ireland, 

Young Mickey, the old had 

a prominent part In a war that in 

the hills, a of includ 

ing the himself, later he the 

Irish Guards. It to I 

"Ah, he 1 !! not to me now/ the old 

man. 

Yet t in his so 

I continued to talk of la of 

the old man s words* 

"Why is that?* 1 1 

"Sure he s too grand/ 1 
"They ve made him a 

"That a promotion/ I 

"Sure, it was/ 1 the old 

a* 



OLD MICKEY 27 

"And he s been having some leave?" I said. 

"He has," said Old Mickey, "and making a 
glory in the street with his fine uniform." 

"Did it look well on him?" I asked. 

"Begob, theyVe nothing finer to wear in 
Heaven," he said, and added hastily, "Barring the 
blessed saints." 

"I m writing a book about Ireland," I told him. 

"Then," said Old Mickey, "you ve the grandest 
country in the whole world to write about" 

"I have," I said, "but no one will read it unless 
I tell them one thing. If s the one thing they will 
want to know." 

"And what s that?" asked Old Mickey. 

"If s what the people themselves think about this 
new form of government we ve got," I said. 

"Begob, you re right," said Old Mickey. "It s 
what they ll want to know." 

"And I ve come to you to ask you/ I said, "be 
cause I was sure you d know." 

"Sure, I know it well enough," he said. "Hist, 
and I ll tell you." 

I stood and waited, and there was silence. 

"And what is it?" I asked. 

"Wait now," said Old Mickey, "wait till I get 
my pipe drawing well, for sometimes it does be 
getting choked. And wait till those young lads 
have gone by. TheyVe no call to be overhearing 
what I say to a gentleman." 



28 MY IRELAND 

"Shall we come into your house?" I asked. 

"We will not," he said, "For if we were to do 
that, wouldn t everyone know we d gone in to talk 
politics? We ll wait here and they ll soon be gone 
by." 

And the old man turned the tobacco out of his 
pipe and earnestly prodded the deeps of the bowl 
with the point of an old nail. And the young men 
went by. 

"Look now. It s like this," said Old Mickey, 

But something in the way he had prodded his 
pipe had given the impression that he was only 
waiting to talk politics, for one of the three young 
men that had strolled by turned very leisurely 
round again and very slowly indeed began to stray 
back, and listlessly the others came after him. 

"Ah, no matter now," said Old Mickey. "You 
won t be writing your book all in one day. Won t 
some other time do?" 

"It will indeed," I said. The book needn t be 
finished much before next spring." 

"Then one time s as good as another," said Old 
Mickey, "and I ll tell you next time you come." 

"Any day will do," I said. "I ll come and see 
you next week." 

With that we parted, I deciding to do as I d said, 
unless I got the necessary information from some 
one else in the meantime. 

As I left Cranogue I saw leaning against a wall 



OLD MICKEY 29 

a man to whom I had once sent a brace of ducks ; 
we recognized one another, and I stopped the car 
to talk to him. And he was evidently still grateful 
for the ducks and kindly wanting to pay me the 
highest compliment in his power, for his whole 
face lit up and he shouted out to me, "Aren t you 
terrible fatl" It was, I am glad to say, an exag 
geration ; but there is no greater compliment than 
this where the principal possessions for ages have 
been cattle, which are valued by their fatness, and 
he had felt I deserved the compliment on account 
of the ducks, 

"And what brings you to these parts?" he asked 
me. 

"I came to ask Old Mickey about the state of the 
country," I said. 

"Politics, is it?" said he. 

"Yes," I replied. 

"Ah, what do you want with politics/ 5 he said, 
"when you ve all the sport you want? Don t the 
ducks be coming in well to that pond of yours? 
I heard they were* And cubbing will be starting 
in a few days." 

"I m afraid I m writing a book about Ireland," 
I said, 

"God save us," he answered, "Well, there s no 
one better able to tell you how things are going 
than Old Mickey, if it s politics you want." 

"I don t," I said, "but no one will want to read 



30 MY IRELAND 

my book if I don t tell them what the people really 
think about the government we have since the 
country got a new name/ 

"I wouldn t be bothering with politics," he said. 
"Why don t you tell them instead the good things 
you hear people saying, the like of which you d 
hear in no other country in the world," 

"I might do both," I said. 

And his idea struck me as a good one, for there 
has been a succession of wits in Ireland in my time, 
and, for the matter of that, probably all through 
history ; but I need not trouble with the tales of the 
earlier ones, for many of them are likely to be in 
books already. When I was young the stories of 
Irish wit that went from mouth to mouth seemed 
mostly to originate with Father Hely, as for in 
stance his devastating answer to a woman to whom 
he was introduced, who tediously said to him, "I 
hear you say funny things, Father Hely. Won t 
you say something funny to me?" 

A difficult situation for any man to rise to, for 
wit is not often inspired by such dull remarks* But 
Father Hely rose to it. 

"Indeed and I m very pleased to see you, Mrs. 
Murphy," he said. "And isn t that funny, now?" 

Of the innumerable sparks of his wit the one that 
shines clearest in my memory now is a remark he 
made to a farmer whom he met by chance one day, 
a man to whom he had once sold a horse. 



OLD MICKEY 31 

"And how s the horse doing, that you got from 
me?" asked Father Hely. 

"Ah, he s all right, your reverence/ said the 
farmer, "but for a touch of vernacular." 

And I have seen people contented with jokes 
that depended on nothing more than one word 
being mistaken for another; though why they 
should be called jokes I don t know, their favor 
able reception really depending on the pleasant 
superiority of noting that the farmer ought to have 
said navicular. 

But Father Hely replied, "Now the only beast I 
heard of that ever had that complaint was Balaam s 



ass." 



The successor to Father Hely was perhaps Dr. 
Mahaffy, the Provost of Trinity College. There 
is told a remark of his that always seems to me the 
most devastating remark ever made by one man to 
another. It was when he was Vice-provost of 
Trinity College, and Senior Fellow. He had heard 
an undergraduate swearing. It was Dr. Mahaflfy s 
duty to reprove him, but not easy to go one better, 
for to begin with there is a certain intensity in 
such language, and the Vice-provost being a clergy 
man was quite debarred from competing. But he 
was more than equal to the occasion. 

"Are you aware," he said, "that by swearing you 
endanger your Immortal soul; and, what is more 
important, incur a fine of half a crown?" 



32 MY IRELAND 

Though I ve said that Dr, Mahaffy was debarred 
from competing in bad language, yet it is on record 
that he used a bad word once. He was walking 
down Sackville Street, when a detachment of the 
Salvation Army met him: the officer came up to 
him and said, "Sir, you may wear a white tie, but 
I have to ask you : Are you saved?" 

"Yes," said Mahaffy, "but it was a damned near 
thing, and I don t like to talk of it" 

Once good stories were being told by others, in 
Mahaffy s presence, till there came one good story 
whose teller suddenly doubted if it would quite do 
for reverend ears; and, suddenly breaking off, he 
said, "But you are a clergyman, aren t you, Dr. 
Mahaffy?" 

"A little," he said. 

I think that he must have spoken truly; for once 
when he was preaching a sermon about the apostles 
and came to where St. Paul arrived in Athens and 
taught there, he became so incensed that men not 
educated in the classics should presume to attempt 
to convert the ancient Greeks, that he grew in his 
indignation quite pro-pagan, and was inhibited by 
his bishop from preaching any more sermons for 
a short period. 

Once when he was staying with me he wanted 
to see a small church some distance away, so we 
motored there on Sunday for the service. The 
organ was wheezy, the singing in different styles, 



OLD MICKEY 33 

and we certainly had a rather doleful hymn. A 
chess-player could not have pulled out a board and 
played a quiet game of chess during that hymn, 
a journalist could not have written an article while 
they were singing it, a lawn-tennis player could 
not have practised a few shots down the aisle ; but 
Mahafify followed his profession with perfect de 
corum, he kneeled down and buried his face in his 
hands, and remained in silent prayer till the hymn 
was over. 

The modern successor to the Irish wits is, I 
should say, Oliver Gogarty, though I should like 
to see a competition for that succession between 
him and Lord Castlerosse. To sit at dinner with 
Oliver Gogarty is to be entertained by many per 
sonalities which he will assume in the course of the 
evening. I have seen him, for instance, in a smok 
ing-room turn suddenly into a didactic Highland 
laird showing a novice how a stag ought to be 
stalked. The stalk was a very good one, advantage 
being taken of every scrap of cover provided by 
any chair that was met on the way; indeed, after 
a short homily in a whisper, the laird was actually 
about to shoot, when he noticed that his gillie had 
neglected to bring his rifle. The oaths that then 
broke out from the thwarted sportsman made one 
forget that a Dublin surgeon was talking in a smok 
ing-room; they somehow seemed too breezy for 
four walls. 



34 MY IRELAND 

Gogarty was an undergraduate at Trinity under 
Mahaffy, and there, when Mahaffy s dog died, he 
composed its funeral oration, a On the Death of 
Diogenes, the Doctor s Dog," a poem which shows 
his wit playing amongst the lore of the Greeks and 
rudely mimicking Swinburne as it goes. One of 
the verses is: 

For the dead dog no home is 

Unless that it be 
Where the cat s hecatomb is 

Of pork-butchery 

Where spaniels are sundered for sausage, ful 
filled of catastrophe. 

Such verse was written under a pseudonym ; in 
deed he had many pseudonyms, for one might have 
been discovered, and, had it been known that he 
wrote light verse, it would have wrecked his prac 
tise as a surgeon. But now perhaps his surgical 
skill has overcome such fears, or the fact that 
Gogarty writes light verse (amongst other verse) 
is known in too many lands for his pseudonyms to 
be any longer a camouflage, so that what I have 
quoted here will not blast his reputation; and, even 
if there were any danger of this, people have only 
to look at him to realize that levity is far from his 
nature, so that I must have been writing of some 
body else of the same name. For the rest I may 



OLD MICKEY 35 

refer readers to his own latest book, for I under 
stand that a book about Ireland by Oliver Gogarty 
will appear before this one of mine. He told me 
that he was quoting in it a line or two of a verse of 
mine, that has not hitherto been in print or any 
form of writing. I said to him, "The lines are in 
judicious, and very nearly libelous, and far better 
left out; but what is serious is that, quoting from 
memory, you ve got the rhythm wrong, although 
the sense is all right ; and I must insist that you put 
that right" 

For, whatever one says one can defend, but 
against misquotation one is powerless. 

Gogarty promised to do as I asked, and an 
anxiety was lifted from my mind. 

I will append an invitation of my own that I 
once sent to him asking him to dine with me in 
County Meath, a copy of which I found the other 
day amongst light scraps in a drawer wherein such 
things lie. Two allusions in it may need explana 
tion; the reference to the street and to the port: 
there was a civil war going on at the time, and 
Gogarty had been forbidden port by some severer 
doctor. Gogarty is, of course, a throat specialist. 

Ah, let the tonsils grow, 

And come and dine with me ; 

Even at best, you know, 
They last as short as we. 



36 MY IRELAND 

Leave too the well-armed street 

To let its battle roar; 
Turn to the fields your feet, 

Leave sore throats to be sore. 

Let, let the tonsils grow. 

To have their little span 
Of three score years or so 

And last as long as man. 

Here in the fertile land 
The port you may not touch 

Waits you, and by my hand 
The wild duck slain and such. 

Ah, let the tonsils grow 
A few more hours, and then 

Whip em out with the mot, 
Who lasts as long as men? 

To write of Ireland without saying anything of 
Its humor would be to deal with the topic as incom 
pletely as if one told of the Bog of Allen without 
any mention of heather; but I can claim no com 
pleteness for my brief list; for, apart from many 
known names that I must have omitted ? there are 
the million, or more, of unknown Irishmen all 
capable of illuminating a fact with wit, so that it 
may be the more clearly seen and Its meaning in 
terpreted. That ability is perhaps the most con 
spicuous thing about Ireland. A treasure of all 



OLD MICKEY 37 

countries is their daily events, and the everlasting 
laws out of which they arise. To perceive these 
things to the full is to live fully. But how perceive 
them? A thing truly witty is never said without 
throwing a light upon some one of man s ways, and 
sometimes showing the relation between his acts 
and his destiny. Even though exaggeration is used, 
and amply, the light will still be there, turned 
brightly on some man s act, even showing his char 
acter with the single flash. This brilliance is pe 
culiarly the gift of the people of Ireland, and is 
confined to no class or calling, but is more widely 
spread there than the knowledge of reading or 
writing. And not only exaggeration may be an 
ingredient of this wit, but even absurdity may give 
it a spice; and perhaps we cannot always say of 
absurdity whether it is below or above common 
sense. Here is an example of it, that the reader 
may make head or tail of as best he can. An Eng 
lishman arrived at a station in Dublin, and looking, 
no doubt, for what must be dear to a methodical 
man, the time, but finding it variously interpreted, 
said to a porter, "Look here! What is the good of 
having two clocks if they are both different times?" 

"And what," said the porter, "would be the good 
of having two clocks, if they were both the same 
time?" 

When you come to think of it, the topic of these 
men s discussion was nonsense, but even that med- 



38 MY IRELAND 

ium of conversational art revealed In the English 
man an interest in the practical, and in the Irish 
man a more imaginative view. If I am wrong in 
calling it nonsense, perhaps the reader may be able 
to make some sense out of what either of them was 
saying ; but I can t. 

And now it occurs to me that between a sense 
for the practical, in which England excels, and a 
sense for wit or philosophy or the long views that 
the East takes, there must usually be a gulf. For 
a man who is hourly occupied with important busi 
ness has little leisure for the wider view that sees 
so much besides the matter in hand, while the man 
in the bow-window cannot easily be lured away to 
peer through a crack. Perhaps the two attitudes 
may best be observed in Ireland, unseparated by 
the gulf, at any place where a man is selling a 
horse: there you will hear those scraps of wisdom, 
that in their legendary journeys the races which 
settled in Ireland perhaps brought from the East, 
and there you will find a close interest in pounds, 
shillings and pence, not unworthy of the great mar 
kets of the City of London, And let me here make 
public a method of business that may not be known 
in London: when, at the end of suitable talk, the 
horse is sold for 100, the seller will give back ten. 
The advantage of this is obvious. You can always 
say afterwards, "I sold that horse for 100." You 
have even the check to show. You are in a more 



OLD MICKEY 39 

solid position than a man who can only say he got 
ninety. And yet I do not suppose there is much 
about business, of which I am able to inform the 
City of London. 

I was alluding just now to eastern philosophy, 
while speaking of the Irish point of view ; and this 
touch of the East that there is in Irish thought, and 
which with A. E. was far more than a touch, is 
something not to be lost sight of when thinking of 
Ireland. Seamus MacCall in his book And So 
Began The Irish Nation tells of a queer current 
that he had himself observed off the coast of the 
north of Spain, which tended, he says, to carry sea 
farers wide of England and to bring them to land 
in the outermost of the British Isles. This tallies 
also with what legend tells us that wanderers from 
the furthest end of the Mediterranean came to Ire 
land. They came also from the African coast, and 
there is still in County Cork a legend that claims 
for certain districts in the county that they were 
populated from Barbary. But, whatever history 
or legend says, one can see clearly enough in the 
minds of the Irish people a certain lore, a wise way 
of looking at things, which in greater or lesser 
degree all peasantries have, but which seems to 
me to come from the East and which shines now 
and then in their talk, like flashes from gold that 
has come from a far country. I once mentioned 
this Oriental trait in the Irish to no less an author- 



40 MY IRELAND 

ity than Kipling, who said to me: "By every test 
that I know, the Irish are Oriental." I do not 
quote his words as historical proof, nor would he 
have liked them to be so quoted ; but I give them 
as showing the view that was formed of this people 
by one who knew India, and indeed the whole 
world, so well. I cannot at this moment think of 
any piece of wisdom that has shone in conversations 
that I have had on roads and in lanes of Ireland, 
or along the edges of bogs ; only I know that I have 
only to go out and ask some question of any man 
that I meet, to get in the answer some unexpected 
light on the topic that will in all probability show 
an aspect of it that is bright enough or true enough 
to be well worthy of notice. Modern ways may 
change this: indeed the change may be taking 
place quicker than I can notice it; for if a man is 
given his point of view every morning, and, in a 
little more exciting form, every evening, he may 
cease to form his own, or even to be able to; much 
reading, in fact, may rest the mind as comfortably 
as pre-digested food (whatever that may mean) 
may rest the digestion. The best education is that 
which is given at universities ; but, when you come 
to look for the second best, there is a great deal to 
be said for illiteracy, for that compels a man to do 
his own thinking. It encourages him also to listen 
to tales told by the fireside at evening, and no such 
tales come far down the ages without having some 



OLD MICKEY 41 

merit about them : they have to be what I shall call 
timeworthy, as a far-traveling ship must be sea 
worthy, or they will soon be sunk by the years. 
And speaking of tales reminds me of another 
prominent feature about Ireland. It is a country 
that may be called the land of unlikely events. "It 
could only happen in Ireland/ 5 are words so often 
heard that the phrase would seem to call for in 
vestigation; and whether the queer originality is 
in Irish actions, or in the way that they tell of 
them, there are certainly very queer tales to be 
heard in Ireland. I will tell a little fishing-story 
as an example of this, or perhaps I should call it a 
dog-story. Looking into the distance from Tara 
I should be able to see the place where it occurred, 
if only I could identify it in that vast panorama. 
There was a man with a dog who would retrieve 
anything, and with neighbors to whom he told 
many a story of his dog s unequaled abilities ; and 
maybe the neighbors bided their time, and waited 
for a story of their own. And this was the story. 
One day the owner of the supernatural dog went 
fishing in the Boyne, with a lump of dynamite at 
the end of a stick, and a Bickford fuse attached. 
Having lit the fuse he threw the stick as far as he 
could into the Boyne. Then the faithful dog re 
trieved it, and came joyfully seeking his master 
with the stick in his mouth, and the fuse burning 
towards a bomb large enough to kill fish. The 



42 MY IRELAND 

story dwells with some zest on the fisherman s run 
over a wide field to the nearest path, to find a stone 
to throw at the self-satisfied dog. 

In this frivolous story is there not almost a Greek 
element, as though Nemesis had grown bored with 
the fisherman s tales of his dog, and had yawned 
at last and turned the dog against him? Is there 
not also a certain symmetry in the unconventional- 
ity of the man and the dog? 

And here is another story from the Land of Un 
likely Events : an Irish lady told me that one day 
a man came to see her, coming rather late in the 
evening, when nobody was about; he had quarreled 
with his priest, and so wanted to change his reli 
gion, and had come to the Big House to ask the 
lady what religion he had best take instead. First 
she had tried to see if the quarrel could not be 
healed ; and, when she found it couldn t, she gave 
him the advice that he sought 

"And what religion did you choose for him?" 
I asked hen 

"Well, I didn t like to recommend ours/ she 
said, "because that would have been too obvious, 
and you know they always count on us to be fair. 
So I advised the Salvation Army," 

"And did he take your advice?" I asked. 

"Of course he did," she replied. "And he came 
to me some weeks later, and said that it suited him 
grand," 



OLD MICKEY 43 

I will not give my readers any more Irish stories, 
unless some occur to my mind as I write; for, 
though they season a discourse as cloves season an 
apple pie, one would hesitate to open a pie that 
was made of cloves. But let me tell my reader one 
secret about Irish stories, a thing unknown to any 
Englishman whom I have ever met, a little secret 
but one profoundly hidden: and that is that the 
words "I will be after doing" this or that, so often 
met with in stories about Ireland, are impossible 
in the mouth of an Irishman. If you read or hear 
those words, then it was not an Irishman that wrote 
or told that tale. If you read such words in a book, 
and the name of a well-known Irishman is on the 
cover, then you may be sure that the book was 
written for him by somebody living in London, 
who next year may be writing My Memories as a 
Chaplain, and, in time for the autumn publica 
tions, My Forty Years on the Turf. For, "I will 
be after doing something" would mean "I will be 
having done it," which, though possibly not beyond 
the utmost stretch of grammar, would be far too 
clumsy for any conversation. This secret seems 
never to have been revealed before, and nearly half 
the Irish stories one hears in England contain this 
curious future-past tense. 

The typical Irishman will not be met in these 
pages, chiefly because there is no such thing; for, 
although the amount greatly varies, men are made 



44 MY IRELAND 

with too much Individuality and idiosyncrasy for 
it to be possible to find one so convenient for han 
dling as the typical man or the average man, 
though we often hear of him. And another reason 
why you will not meet the typical Irishman is that 
he is dead: he was the first Irishman that I can 
ever remember seeing on Irish soil, or rather on 
Irish timber, for I never remember seeing him off 
the platform at Kingstown, except once when I 
saw him in Hyde Park. He was Davy Stephens, 
and I think that the profession of typical Irishman 
was one that he deliberately chose, for he was the 
first Irishman that most people saw on arriving in 
Ireland, never being absent from Kingstown Pier 
with a bundle of newspapers under his arm as the 
boats arrived. He had aquiline features, and any 
wildness there may have been in his eye was ad 
mirably enhanced by the long ringlets that he wore 
nearly down to his shoulders. On one day in every 
year this wild figure assumed a splendid tidiness, 
and went in frock-coat and tall hat to see the 
Derby, spending the rest of the day on a seat in 
Hyde Park, whence he could watch the splendor 
of the gentry in their natural surroundings, instead 
of seeing them only by twos and threes, muffled up, 
cold and sleepy, as they came from the boat 

As I said, there is no such thing as the typical 
Irishman; but, as people are often looking for one, 
it may well have occurred to Davy Stephens to 



OLD MICKEY 45 

show them what they were looking for, and before 
they had penetrated any further into Ireland than 
the end of Kingstown Pier. Poor old Davy 
Stephens; how many thousands of wintry dawns 
he must have seen rising over the sea, and shining 
bright and clear on the houses of Kingstown ; how 
many winds must have shrilled in his ringlets ; and 
then one day there must have blown one that at last 
was too cold for him. 



V 

Francis Ledwidge 

JNCE In the Sahara some Arabs were telling me 
the names of the stars and explaining how they had 
come by them, when, pointing eastwards from our 
little encampment, they showed me a star that had 
risen a short way from the horizon, and that soon, 
they told me, would set I do not tell the story of 
that star as I heard it beside our fire, for it has no 
concern with this story; but I remember Its bright 
brief light looking over the desert, and, remember 
ing it now, I think of Ledwidge, And I remember 
on that same journey a flight of birds heard sud 
denly over the waste, where there were no trees for 
them for hundreds of miles; I remember their 
sudden voices; and they sped on northwards and 
there was dead silence again. Indeed all beautiful 
things that were swift in their coming, and brief, 
remind me of Ledwidge. 

In the summer of 1912, I received a letter from 
him and a copybook full of his verse, asking my 
opinion of it In that book there were immaturi 
ties, showing how young he was; trite phrases 

amongst unfaltering lines and piercingly keen per- 

46 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 47 

ceptions of the Irish countryside. It was as though 
an eager child had brought one bundles of rare 
flowers, mixed with a few weeds. There is so little 
advice that one can give to a young poet (for one 
cannot make a poet with advice) that probably all 
the advice I ever gave him was to leave out these 
trite phrases, which he immediately did. Looking 
again at the small collection of verse that he has 
left on this side of Lethe, I see at least one of these 
phrases among the earlier poems. But he never 
used them through any weakness of the power to 
make phrases of his own, or any shortness of vision ; 
but merely because they happened to be there, 
amongst some bad reading that he had probably 
done, like the weeds that I have mentioned among 
the flowers. It was every bit as easy for him to 
invent a beautiful metaphor such as, 

The large moon rose up queenly as a flower 
Charmed by some Indian pipes, 

as it was to use the expression "bow before the 
blast"; and, when I suggested to him choosing in 
preference such things as the former, he made that 
choice and abided by it The brilliance of the 
vision that he had of the fields he knew immedi 
ately astonished me. I remember still my surprise 
at reading: 

When briars make semicircles on the way. 



48 MY IRELAND 

Like most people I had known briars all my life, 
and knew the curves that their tendrils made on a 
path ; and yet I had never seen it written that they 
made semicircles, or heard it said, though when 
I read that line I immediately realized that they 
did; that is to say I realized that an eye keener 
than mine had looked at them. And this was an 
experience that I was to have repeatedly when 
reading Ledwidge s poetry. Of all those early 
lines the ones that thrilled me most were : 

And wondrous impudently sweet, 
Half of him passion, half conceit, 
The blackbird calls adown the street 

I have not seen any merrier, truer description of a 
blackbird, in all I have ever read. One might well 
say of all his verse what he says of the poet in 
spring: 

And in his song you hear the river s rhyme 
And the first bleat of the lamb. 

I wrote to him greeting him as a true poet, and he 
was intensely grateful for this, and never forgot 
that gratitude, though a lark owes nothing to us for 
knowing that he is a lark* How he looked at na 
ture, his deep feeling for it and his ability to pre 
serve for us something of it in books, may be sug 
gested by a verse of one of those earlier poems 
called, "To a Linnet in a Cage." 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 49 

When Spring is in the fields that stained your wing, 

And the blue distance is alive with song, 
And finny quiets of the babbling spring 

Rock lilies red and long, 
At dewy daybreak, I will set you free 

In ferny turnings of the woodbine lane, 
Wl^ere faint-voiced echoes leave and cross in glee 

The hilly swollen plain. 

In the next verse come the lovely lines 

You want the wide air of the moody noon 
And the slanting evening showers. 

Indeed his verse is full of lovely lines, and any 
one with much love of rural things might find on 
page after page of his book single lines that if col 
lected would keep alive the memory of bright 
meadows starred with flowers, quite as vividly as 
the flowers themselves could do it when pressed 
between pages, as some preserve them for a mem 
ory of past seasons. And here is another line taken 
from one of those first poems, that tells of the 
corning of Spring: 

The golden news the skylark waketh 

I was in London when I received the letter of 
which I spoke, but shortly afterwards I returned 
to Ireland and first saw Ledwidge. He came over 
from Slane, whose wooded hill standing above the 



50 MY IRELAND 

Boyne Is one of the hills that one can see from Tara, 
lying between the Mourne Mountains and the hills 
of northwest Meath, going pale blue into Cavan; 
but much nearer than either. He belonged defi 
nitely to one of the Irish types, having the features 
of one of the races that populate Ireland; but, 
though they are familiar to me, I do not know 
which race it is. One thing, however, set him 
apart from other men that one meets, and that was 
his eyes. Poets usually have fine eyes, but I never 
saw eyes with pupils in which there was more 
room for dreams. 

I gave him a copy of Keats poems, and almost 
at once I thought that I detected an improvement 
in his poems, a kind of echo such as stirs faintly in 
bells when another is ringing beside it; no more 
than that, for he imitated nobody ; but I think that 
his spirit was strengthened by meeting the spirit of 
Keats. It would be a fitting description to call him 
wayward : he seems to have sought occupations as 
a butterfly seeks flowers; and wayward he con 
tinued. I never found anybody more full of grati 
tude for the little things one could do for them, a 
gratitude that did not arise from any benevolence 
in me, but from the intense friendliness of his own 
spirit; and no one can read his verses without find 
ing that bubbling over from them. In life he had 
a most intense devotion to his mother, and in his 
art his greatest love seemed to be for the song of 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 51 

the blackbird. I made a collection of his poems 
and took them to the firm of publishers who spon 
sor them to this day, Messrs. Herbert Jenkins. 

The manager in those days was Mr. Jenkins. 
He made an error which I wish to correct now. 
He advertised Francis Ledwidge very widely as 
"the scavenger poet." One does not like to correct 
the errors of men who are dead ; but Ledwidge is 
also dead, and I owe it to his memory to say that 
he was never a scavenger. He was employed at the 
time on work on the roads under the County Coun 
cil in Meath; but workmen on roads are not 
scavengers, moreover Francis Ledwidge was fore 
man of the gang. The firm of Messrs. Herbert 
Jenkins, as at present constituted, have never sug 
gested that Ledwidge was a scavenger or issued 
any other mistaken description of him. 

Here is one of the early poems that appeared in 
that first book: 

DESIRE IN SPRING 

I love the cradle songs the mothers sing 
In lonely places when the twilight drops, 
The slow endearing melodies that bring 
Sleep to the weeping lids ; and, when she stops, 
I love the roadside birds upon the tops 
Of dusty hedges in a world of Spring. 

And when the sunny rain drips from the edge 
Of midday wind, and meadows lean one way, 



52 MY IRELAND 

And a long whisper passes through the 
Beside the broken water let me stay. 

While these old airs upon my memory play ? 
And silent changes color up the hedge. 

He had an intense simplicity. But let us not 
think ourselves too grand for him on that account 
We have all seen a wind blowing over deep mead- 
ows ? but which of us has ever recorded a fact more 
vividly than he has with those simple words (i and 
meadows lean one way"? But there was another 
thing that he knew besides the grass and the trees 
and the flowers and birds and sheep; he knew the 
mind of the people^ of whom he was one, and was 
as familiar with the fancies that lived therein as he 
was with the robins and linnets. One sees again 
and again throughout these poems hints of a knowl 
edge of two things very near to the hearts of the 
Irish people; old legend, to which they are always 
leaning back, and the haunting presence of fairies 
and all manner of spirits, of which they speak 
rarely to me, but which must have been as well 
known to Ledwidge as the birds that sing by the 
Boyne. I do not know how the Lanaun Shee are 
faring now; they may have been poisoned by poli 
tics, or the ether may be too full of jazz from 
Droitwich and Athlone for them to move as easily 
as they used, without continually jostling their 
elbows against reality ; but when Ledwidge wrote 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 53 

they evidently came at times very near to the folk 
amongst whom he lived, none of whom would have 
been likely to find anything particularly odd in the 
statement that 

Every night at Currabwee 
Little men with leather hats 
Mend the boots of faery. 

And any one interested in that form of cobbling 
may be glad to hear that 

Louder than a cricket s wing 

All night long their hammers glee 

Times the merry songs they sing. 

Certainly the flashes that shine out here and 
there in Ledwidge s poems are from a golden hoard 
of folk-lore; but little of it will be found in this 
book of mine, for I have only seen glimpses and 
hints of it, while to Ledwidge it was a treasure that 
he shared with probably all his neighbors. That 
first book was a little bunch of idylls inspired al 
most only by two things, the rural beauty of the 
fields that lie about the Boyne, where it flows east 
again after its journey northward, whose journey 
Tara watches all the way; and by the heroic 
legends of those who lived once on Tara, Almost 
only by these that book is inspired, though now and 
then some influence from old books he had read 
would stray for a moment amongst his rustic lines ; 



54 MY IRELAND 

and one poem I think now that I should not have 
included in the collection, as it is unmistakably in 
fluenced by Mr. Walter de la Mare s poem "The 
Listeners/ 1 a poem that could hardly fail to influ 
ence a very young poet 

A very short while passed, and things went badly 
with the world, and Ledwidge s art was greatly 
strengthening. Ledwidge took part in the patriotic 
fervor that soon filled Kitchener s first army, but 
before he enlistened in an Irish regiment, the Royal 
Inniskilling Fusiliers, he had been reading Keats, 
from whom he had probably learned the name of 
Artemis and other goddesses, and he wrote a poem 
called u The Dream of Artemis"; but, for all the 
classical allusions in that poem, his inspiration was 
still from the fields of Meath, a rose that could 
never be transplanted to climb the pillars of any 
Greek temple, yet enriched by winds from Olym 
pus. This poem is such a lovely description of a 
hunt followed by a young man and a goddess that 
I will quote a great deal of it: 

The white Nine left the spaces of flowers, and now 
Went calling through the wood the hunter s call. 
Young echoes sleeping in the hollow bough 
Took up the shouts and handed them to all 
Their sisters of the crags, til all the day 
Was filled with voices loud and musicaL 
I followed them across a tangled way 
Til the red deer broke out and took the brow 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 55 

Of a wide hill in bounces like a ball. 
Beside swift Artemis I joined the chase; 
We roused up kine and scattered fleecy flocks ; 
Crossed at a mill a swift and bubbly race ; 
Scaled in a wood of pine the knotty rocks ; 
Past a gray vision of a valley town ; 
Past swains at labor in their colored frocks; 
Once saw a boar upon a windy down; 
Once heard a cradle in a lonely place, 
And saw the red flash of a frightened fox. 

We passed a garden where three maids in blue 
Were talking of a queen a long time dead. 
We caught a green glimpse of the sea : then through 
A town all hills ; now round a wood we sped 
And killed our quarry in his native lair. 
Then Artemis spun round to me and said, 
"Whence come you ?" and I took her long damp hair 
And made a ball of it, and said, "Where you 
Are midnight s dreams of love." 

Then follow lines telling of the love of this mortal 
for the immortal ; love in the evening, when 

The trees were all at peace, 
And lifting slowly on the gray evetide 
A large and lovely star. 

And there comes a lovely little bit of autobiography 
in the lines : 

I have not loved on Earth the strife for gold, 
Nor the great name that makes immortal man, 



56 MY IRELAND 

But all that struggle upward to behold 
What still is left of Beauty undisgraced, 
The snowdrop at the heel of winter cold 
And shivering, and the wayward cuckoo chased 
By lingering March, and, in the thunder s van 
The poor lambs merry on the meager wold, 
By-ways and cast-off things that lie therein, 
Old boots that trod the highways of the world, 
The schoolboy s broken hoop, the battered bin 
That heard the ragman s story, blackened places 
Where gipsies camped and circuses made din, 
Fast water and the melancholy traces 
Of sea tides. 

So far is he from borrowing inspiration from others 
and trying to write about Greece that, knowing 
Meath as I do and knowing where he lived, I can 
almost follow the hunt. That intensely vivid de 
scription of a deer going over the hill u in bounces 
like a ball" would be in Slane deer-park, then they 
would have crossed the Boyne; and even people 
"talking of a queen a long time dead" are not at 
all foreign to Ireland where, as I think I have said 
already, memories are continually turning back 
wards to legends as far and as dim as the Slieve 
Blooms seen from Tara, That poem suddenly 
ends with the two surprising lines : 

Oh, Artemis what grief the silence brings! 
I hear the rolling chariot of Mars! 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 57 

Then he enlisted and came to Richmond Bar 
racks, to the 5th battalion of the Inniskillings. A 
simple fancy that came to him at this time, a soldier 
about to go to the war, is so quaint and beautiful 
that I will quote the whole of it. It is called "To 
a Little Boy in the Morning." I do not know who 
the boy was, perhaps a little brother who had died. 

He will not come, and still I wait 
He whistles at another gate 
Where angels listen. Ah, I know 
He will not come, yet if I go 
How shall I know he did not pass 
Barefooted in the flowery grass? 

The moon leans on one silver horn 
Above the silhouettes of morn, 
And from their nest sills finches whistle 
Or stooping pluck the downy thistle. 
How is the morn so gay and fair 
Without his whistling in its air? 

The world is calling, I must go. 
How shall I know he did not pass 
Barefooted in the shining grass? 

He fought in Gallipoli and Greece and France, 
still writing poems and still taking with him a 
vivid memory of his home, that seemed almost un 
troubled by the war. He tells of the sheep coming 
home in Greece, jumping "With one bell-ring o er 



58 MY IRELAND 

the brooks." That is an example of his art, a very 
simple thing put simply and very clearly, and yet 
a thing that no one seems to have thought of saying 
before. It is unquestionably true; for, when you 
come to think of it, the sheep s jump would shove 
the bell back against his neck, and it would ring 
no more till he landed on the other side. Led- 
widge, of course, never thought of it, he merely 
had the impression, and that impression remained 
so clear on his sensitive spirit that we get it re 
corded exactly as this simple event occurred* This 
is a poem that he wrote in France, nearly his last, 
which shows how completely he cloaked himself 
with the Irish atmosphere and carried it always 
with him. 

HOME 

A burst of sudden wings at dawn, 
Faint voices in a dreamy noon, 
Evenings of mist and murmurings, 

And nights with rainbows of the moon. 
And through these things a wood-way dim, 
And waters dim, and slow sheep seen 
On uphill paths that wind away 
Through summer sounds and harvest green. 

This is a song a robin sang 
This morning on a broken tree, 
It was about the little fields 
That call across the world tome. 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 59 

Only one word in the poem shows that It was writ 
ten on a battlefield during the Great War. The 
robin sang on a broken tree, and but for that one 
word "broken" the poem would be an idyll of 
peace. His last poem began with the words 

Powdered and perfumed the full bee 
Winged heavily across the clover, 
And where the hills were dim with dew, 
Purple and blue the west leaned over. 

I quote the lines in order to show to what strength 
his art had come. The poem told how the girl that 
he loved and who had died in the summer of 1915 
appeared to him, and that he knew then that his life 
must be at an end. He says : 

I tiptoed gently up and stooped 
Above her looped and shining tresses, 
And asked her of her kin and name, 
And why she came from fairy places. 
She told me of a sunny coast 
Beyond the most adventurous sailor, 

And the verses tell of a land strange and lovely but 
not too strange to be easily seen by an Irish im 
agination. One verse tells of that country thus: 

Nor Autumn with her brown line marks 
The time of larks, the length of roses, 
But song-time there is over never 
Nor flower-time ever, ever closes. 



60 MY IRELAND 

And these lovely lines are there : 

And by the lakes the skies are white, 

(Oh, the delight!) when swans are coming. 

I turn to the last page of his book, and find him 
still looking at nature with a poefs eye. 

Like a poor widow whose late grief 

Seeks for relief in lonely byways, 

The moon, companionless and dim, 

Took her dull rim through starless highways. 

And low on that last page still speaking of the 
girl whose spirit had come for him, he writes: 

From hill to hill, from land to land, 
Her lovely hand is beckoning for me, 
I follow on through dangerous zones, 
Cross dead men s bones and oceans stormy. 

The reader will recognize for himself, and I 
think delight in, the inferior rhyme in those lines 
like echoes ringing on deep in a bell after the bell 
has spoken, 

It is no use lamenting what is irretrievably lost, 
yet the thought Is often with me that the small 
harvest of those early years and the easy fluency 
with which he wrote and the increasing number of 
beautiful lines to the page, as those few years went 
by, show that here were the makings of a great 
poet, whom the world will not know now. It may 



FRANCIS LEDWIDGE 61 

be that he will come to a great reputation yet, as 
though a prophecy of his own were fulfilled: 

At dawn a bird will waken me 
Unto my place among the kings. 



VI 

How the Students Came to Trim 

Ji HAVE written a good deal about poets, because I 
feel that it is not in old buildings, slowly being 
destroyed by ivy, in which Ireland s character lies; 
nor even only in its hills and valleys; for scenery 
has an intensity when shining out of a poet s spirit, 
and even an immortality there, that is equal to its 
material one. I look, in fact, as much for Ireland 
in the Irish mind as I do in the Irish fields. Much 
may pass over a field and leave no trace, but 
what wonderful tracks we may see where a fancy 
has passed over a mind, if only we can discover it. 
A people are often very secret, but we must try to 
find their secrets if we venture to write a book 
about them. Poets fortunately share their secrets 
with us: in Ledwidge we find the Irish fields shin 
ing, In A. E. we see the Irish races looking back 
over their shoulders eastwards, and in James 
Stephens we find qualities not amiss in those spirits 
that dance over Irish bogs, whom Puck would 
cheerfully recognize as his equals. Yet to tell of 
Ireland one must tell of Ireland in stone as well as 
Ireland in dream; though it is right to put poetry 

first, for that is the dream in the raw, while towers 

62 



STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM 63 

and spires are but the casts of dreams preserved in 
material things, as long as material things are able 
to last 

Standing on Tara there is ample choice of ancient 
buildings within the huge circle of the view; not 
that many buildings can be picked out with the 
eye, except the old tower of Skyrne, quite close, to 
the east, and the church of St. Patrick upon the 
hill itself, and a tower on the horizon to the north 
west, and the white spire of Trim cathedral, very 
visible when once discovered ; all else is grass and 
woods, watched over far away by the ghosts of 
mountains. We will go to Trim, where the white 
spire shows the way. As we go westwards all the 
land dips with us. Looking west from Tara there 
lie familiar fields to the left, green fields and 
clumps of trees, with a yellowish-green field, here 
and there, that has haycocks in it and is brighter 
than all the others, as though it had attracted the 
sun; fields near and neighborly, tended by man, 
fields without mystery. 

And suddenly the land plunges to distance. At 
the very edge of a common field quite close, the 
remote West frowns, mountains appear and dis 
appear with varying moods of the evening, and 
immediately beyond the fields that are so clear and 
known appear fields touched with a silvery-greeny 
color, that seem almost to suggest the feet of the 
fairies as more to be expected than the plow. Down 



64 MY IRELAND 

this sudden dip we go on our way westwards, and 
the land grows wilder as we go. We are going 
along the edge of the Pale, the land that the Nor 
mans tidied, and held with a ring of castles, in one 
of which I live; and at the westernmost point of 
It they built their strongest fortress, the castle of 
Trim, as though they feared what lay to the west 
and massed their greatest strength against it. 
Through land fast becoming wilder we approach 
Trim ; the bogs are nearer and the rushy fields ; but 
I have chosen that road because it is splendid 
with the remains of magnificent building. Between 
Bective and Trim one may see architecture defying 
Time, every mile or so, and only losing slowly. 

At Bective we came to the fine bridge over the 
river, built with the skill that gives masonry 
strength to withstand time, the product of which 
skill is always beautiful And that is one of the 
pieces of luck that we have who live in this world ; 
that good work makes beautiful things, and good 
work lasts. Were it the other way about, it could 
only be a matter of time when the world would 
grow too hideous for anybody to live in. On the 
right bank of the river, and on the left-hand side 
of the road, a little row of cottages runs down to 
the edge of the water, and on the other side stands 
Bective Abbey. The walls of the ruined abbey 
hold out stoutly still against time, but the little 
cottages seem to have tired of the struggle and have 



STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM 65 

mostly gone the way of so much else that hears the 
southwest wind sighing softly over our fields. So 
men have left them and weeds have come in instead, 
except to one which has the appearance of being 
shared by both. In another of them the weeds are 
completely triumphant, but I do not think that the 
owner felt he was beaten by them, for he inscribed 
in white paint on his lintel "Up Sinn Fein." And 
the inscription survives, though roof and door are 
down. 

As one goes across the river to Bective Abbey 
one needs no knowledge of history to see that the 
holy men for whom it was built had fear of grosser 
things than spiritual dangers, for though they 
prayed in their chapels they had battlements on 
their towers, and walls of great thickness. They 
obviously feared some mundane danger. If Ire 
land was entirely a land of saints twenty-five years 
or so before the Normans came, then the Cistercians 
misjudged them, for they housed themselves in a 
fortress. Nor are the battlements and towers 
merely symbolical, or built for ornament, but obvi 
ously for defense. Bright green weeds grow now 
in its cloisters, and all the roofs are gone, but it will 
take many more centuries to lower the towers. 
Among its vaults and arches and great fireplaces 
one needs either knowledge of ancient history or 
imagination to picture how it looked once ; I have 
no accurate knowledge of its history, and the last 



66 MY IRELAND 

time I went into It I was on my way home from a 
hard day s snipe-shooting, and I was probably 
tired, and my imagination was certainly asleep. 

But only today I heard this piece of news: if 
news be the word for it, news which, compared 
with anything we can write, Is what raw gold is to 
the gold that jewelers use. This piece of truth that 
had come down the ages as nuggets are rolled in 
streams was as follows: when Henry VIII closed 
the monastery at Bectlve, the students left it and 
came to Trim, taking up half a mile of the road. 
This was told me on the very road by which the 
students had come ; many of them were Belgian and 
French, and I was told other things about them, 
but It is the detail about the length of road they 
took up that gleams in my memory, I doubt if the 
distance is even exaggerated: I doubt if historians 
get as much truth from their documents. It some 
how sounds to me as something that an eye-witness 
had seen and told his children, who passed It on to 
their grandchildren, who passed it on again, so that 
It came, with not very many old people telling the 
story, to the old woman I knew, who died about 
ten years ago well on In her nineties and had told 
It to the man who told It to me. I do not very often 
hear these stories, but they are the histories of the 
cottage fireside, and are neither harmed by mold 
nor bookworm nor fire, nor by anything but the 
spread of the knowledge of reading and writing, 



STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM 67 

which gains ground fast in Ireland; and I fear 
there is coming a time when the people will know 
more of the praise of meat-extracts than of the 
pageantry of events that have brightened the ages. 
At stately intervals houses stand along the Boyne, 
every mile or so, now as in the time of the Normans. 
When Bective Abbey was occupied by Cistercian 
monks, the castle of Assey stood a mile below it on 
the opposite side of the river, and the castle of 
Scurlockstown about two miles further up. One 
passes the ruins of a little church at Scurlockstown, 
on the right, and the ruins of a large mill on the 
left; one comes to a bend in the road where the 
Boyne sweeps by very close, with an abandoned 
lime-kiln on the far side of the river. Then 
churches and abbeys are thicker along the banks as 
you go up the Boyne; the monastery of Newtown 
upon the right bank was less than a mile from 
Scurlockstown, and across the river, little more 
than a hundred yards from the monastery, stand 
the ruins of what must have been a large church, 
with its graveyard beside it, in which people bury 
yet; and a quarter of a mile more brings you to the 
great castle of Trim, called the key of the Pale, in 
which King John lived when he governed Ireland 
for hi? brother Richard I. Although he was not 
yet King, the castle is often spoken of to this day as 
King John s Castle ; though of recent years there 
have been some who, preferring the authority of 



68 MY IRELAND 

churches to that of the Crown, and feeling them 
selves fully justified in adapting history to useful 
ends, have called it Saint John s Castle. Near by 
(oh, printer, by whatever seems to you sacred I 
appeal to you not to print Near By as one word) 
stands the sheer front of St. Mary s church, called 
the Yellow Steeple. 

If an irruption breaks out on Stromboli, or war 
comes to Flanders, these things must make a great 
stir among the people who live there, and prob 
ably very few of them ever expected what came ; 
yet a history of a country, when you can sit and 
read it calmly, turning over centuries easily with 
your thumb, seems not to vary greatly. We are 
inclined to pity the simplicity of fishermen for 
building their little white houses upon the feet of 
Stromboli, and yet we ourselves are surprised when 
arson breaks out in Ireland. But glancing today 
at a book that told of Trim, eight miles from where 
I live, I came on a little brief diary of St. Mary s 
Abbey, whose yellow steeple is so great a landmark, 
with its one great window far up in the sky. And 
there I read: 1108, In this year Connor O Mag- 
laghlin burnt the town of Trim, and above two 
hundred persons, then in the chnrch, perished in 
the flames, 

1127. Connor, the son of Feargul Q Lochluin, 
burned the church and steeple of this abbey, both 
of which were filled with unfortunate people. 



STUDENTS QAME TO TRIM 69 

1143. Trim was consumed by fire, as well as 
Dunshaughlin and Kildare. 

And in 1 155 they burned the town and the abbey 
again. 

In 1203 Trim was again destroyed by fire. 

They then seem to have had one of those splen 
did periods, such as we sometimes do have in Ire 
land, of 165 years in which nobody in Trim burned 
anything. And then one reads: 1368. The church 
of St. Mary in Trim was burnt. 

In 1376 the Abbot of the church of St. Mary 
sued three men for burning the mill at Rathnally, 
the property of the said Abbot. 

But, as the same book records that in 1506 the 
town was burned by lightning, it may well be 
argued that it is on account of something especially 
inflammable in Irish houses that they got burnt, 
and not on account of any taste for arson inherent 
in the people. 

One goes for some way under the walls of King 
John s Castle as one comes into Trim; and where 
one enters it through a gateway high in the wall, 
to which a path is now built up, the walls rise sheer 
from little kitchen-gardens. 

There is no hospitable look about the tower that 
guards the gateway ; for, even in its old age, with 
weeds on its head and draped with a cloak of ivy, 
it shows clear enough the grooves through which 
the portcullis descended ; and if one climbs to the 



70 MY IRELAND 

top, where the long slit In the limestone shows the 
breadth of the portcullis, one sees behind it the 
hole through which molten lead was poured down, 
or whatever they used as a hint to men below to 
come no further, if they had passed the portcullis. 
Looking down from here on to the little gardens 
one sees fine walls separating garden from garden, 
for there has been abundant stone for building in 
Trim, ever since the outer walls of the castle began 
to crumble. Gardens looked down on from a 
height seem always to me to have something in 
them suggesting or hinting that they have borrowed 
a ray of their brightness from some distant lovelier 
world. The walls from which one looks down on 
the gardens are hollow, and wide enough for troops 
to move along them, with towers every fifty yards 
or so, bulging out from the walls, and arrow-slits 
in the towers, no mere ornamental arrow-slits, but 
convenient apertures for a six-foot bow, and peer 
ing in every direction, not only to watch for men 
attacking the tower they guard, but flanking any 
attack on a neighboring tower; spiral staircases run 
up the tower, up and up till they or the tower 
crumble; and the ivy claws and struggles in its 
age-long fight with the stone, and the slow drip that 
makes stalactites falls in the silence of vaults. The 
castle is about a third of a mile round. Going 
along the walls right-handed from the tower of the 
principal gateway one passes four more towers, 



STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM 71 

before one comes to the tower that faces east, 
guarding another gateway. And the great arrow- 
slits stand straight and clearly cut, where much 
else has crumbled, as though they were watching 
still, however forgetful the battlements might be; 
as though they were peering yet to strike at the 
flank of attackers. Where the wall is much crum 
bled an elder leans out through a gap, with such 
an attitude in its clutching branches as though the 
tree had learned to ape the customs of men and was 
imitating some archer looking down from the 
walls. 

The tower that faces east has a groove for an 
other great portcullis, and two holes for molten 
lead, this time in front of the portcullis ; then comes 
a ditch that was once a moat, and a sheer drop in 
the tower goes where the drawbridge must once 
have been, and the tower with all its defenses juts 
out beyond the moat This tower is full of spiral 
stairs and passages, and could have been a very 
busy place whenever disturbed by attack. The 
stones there are very green now, some tiny moss 
having clad them as brilliantly as they can have 
been ever adorned. In the wall between this and 
the next tower, at a corner of the castle which is 
upon the bank of the river, there used to be the 
Irish mint, rediscovered in 1912 when I was hav 
ing such repairs done on the castle, of which I am 
the present owner, as would prevent the ivy actu- 



72 MY IRELAND 

ally winning Its siege during this century. Along 
the Boyne from the tower at the northeastern 
corner, for at least a hundred yards, the walls are 
very low, for whoever was tempted to take the 
great stones away must have found the temptation 
strongest where they could be floated away in boats. 
Probably most of Trim is built from this part 
of the wall. And then the towers begin again, 
looking over the Boyne. And not even ruins, nor 
weeds triumphing over them, nor birds taking 
men s place in their galleries, seem to have the 
power that any river has to call to the mind the 
passing of ages : not only the swifter the river but 
the more beautiful that it is, the more it seems to be 
sweeping the years away. The Boyne under those 
crumbled walls seems in certain moments just about 
to change from a full and shining river to the visi 
ble passage of time. In the midst of these walls 
and towers rises the keep, like a cluster of towers, 
going up so high that the voices of jackdaws dis 
turbed from their homes sound faint to the people 
below. Here, amongst other rooms, with mighty 
walls but roofless, stands the banqueting hall, or so 
historians tell us, with its great fireplace blackened 
still. It is built of limestone; but for archways, 
and pillars of doors, for little shrines in the walls 
and niches of holy water, they used the soft red 
sandstone that was more easily worked. Calm, and 
assured of their ownership, the jackdaws float in 



STUDENTS CAME TO TRIM 73 

and out of their high homes. The strength of the 
walls and great height, and the huge sockets for 
bolts running into the walls for yards, show that 
the keep was planned for a grim defense. 

And many a defense it maintained, while under 
its protection there grew up the town of Trim, and 
a certain culture became possible which, but for 
that row of towers, could not have survived. There 
is no portcullis now in either gateway and nothing 
remains of the strength that protected Trim but the 
walls, bare but for the weeds, and the wandering 
spirals of stone that surmount the towers ; yet they 
did not stand in vain, for by brute force the great 
castles, and by subtler means the monasteries, im 
posed some fear of some law, and built up more of 
whatever culture we have than we are perhaps 
ready to credit them with having achieved for us. 
And however convenient it be for the purpose of 
political speeches to divide all who are in Ireland 
today into the descendants of brutal Normans or 
savage Irish, the fact remains that we all share in 
as much of that culture as we have been lucky 
enough to retain, just as we are all descended from 
conqueror and conquered. 



VII 

A Lapse of Memory 

JOUT I have left too long the serious purpose of 
this book, which is to tell the curious reader what 
I believe he will most want to learn from these 
pages, what the Irish people really think of our 
new political system. I had not intended to go 
over to see Old Mickey again for another week or 
so, as he lives a bit out of my way; and, if I could 
get the information I required, and that the reader 
will require, from anyone else in the meantime, it 
would save me a long journey. Only, considering 
the importance of the topic, as it appears to me, 
and will certainly appear to everyone desiring in 
formation about Ireland, I had to make sure that 
the person to whom I went for this information 
would be an authority on it Casting round my 
mind as to whom to consult, I suddenly thought of 
a neighbor, who for various reasons that I will not 
give, so as not to identify him too closely, was so 
much in touch with the people, that he would be 
certain to know just how they felt about this im 
portant matter. So to him I went at once, and 
found him looking gravely at his garden wall, 
wondering whether he ought to do something about 

74 



A LAPSE OF MEMORY 75 

it now to prevent its falling down, or whether it 
wouldn t last for another generation. 

"Hullo," he said. "What brings you over here ?" 

"To tell you the truth," I said, "I wanted to know 
what the people really think about this new gov 
ernment we have. And I knew you d know. And 
I know you won t mind telling me." 

"What they think about it?" he said. "You 
aren t writing a book about it, or anything? Are 
you?" 

"Well, I rather am," I said. 

"Good God !" said he. "Well, look here ; I don t 
mind telling you what they think about it. But 
you mustn t put it into your damned book. Because 
whenever anybody writes a book there s always 
some other fellow who knows just what he s at, and 
can trace where he s been and who he s been talk 
ing to. You see what I mean. I couldn t do it 
myself, but there ll be somebody who ll be able to 
work it all out, and he ll know it s me you ve been 
talking to." 

"I d be as careful as I could," I said; "but I 
suppose it s possible." 

"I m damned sure it is," said he. "I ll tell you 
what I believe they think about it; in fact I ve 
heard it from more than one of them. Only you 
mustn t put it in your book." 

"Very well, I won t," I said; "not as coming 
from you. But, if I hear the same from anybody 



76 MY IRELAND 

else, I m not bound not to put In what they tell me, 
even if it s the same as yours, as it probably will be. 
And in any case Old Mickey over at Cranogue has 
promised to tell me, if I don t hear it from some 
one else sooner," 

"Old Mickey would know/ said my neighbor 
thoughtfully. 

"Yes/ I said. "So, you see, there it is. I shall 
hear about it from him in any case, and Fm going 
to write what he tells me. But you may as well tell 
me first, and I won t quote a word from you." 

I had my own idea about it all, and I was rather 
inquisitive to see if it was the right one. 

"Well, you see," he said, "it s like this, . . ." 

And he told me all about it But I do not tell 
the reader in this chapter what it is, because of 
my promise. 

"It s rather what I thought," I said. "I am 
going over to see Charlie in a couple of days. Do 
you think I d get it from him? It would save me 
the trouble of going all the way to Cranogue." 

"Charlie is just the fellow that would know," he 
answered. 

So I decided to get for my reader the necessary 
information from that rather more distant neigh 
bor whom we all call Charlie. I knew he would 
tell me and would not mind what I did with the 
information. He is one of those fellows who are 
always saying just what comes into their heads. I 



A LAPSE OF MEMORY 77 

have told him that he ll get himself shot some day ; 
and he doesn t seem to care* 

"Thanks," I said. "I won t say a word of what 
you told me, as coming from you. I ll get it all 
from Charlie. And perhaps I d better check it, 
after all, with Old Mickey. One can t be too care 
ful of one s accuracy in a matter like that." 

"Well, it s just as I told you," he said. 

"I know," I said, and we parted. 

The more I thought of it the clearer I saw that 
the opinion of the people themselves on the politics 
that they have got would be the essential part of 
this book. And, that decided, the sooner I got to 
it the better. So, instead of waiting till the time 
that he was expecting me, I determined to go over 
to see Charlie as soon as I could, I sent him a 
telegram suggesting tea that afternoon, and he 
wired back asking me to come to lunch next day. 
And when the next day came I slipped a notebook 
into my pocket so as to be sure of getting his exact 
words on a subject of so much importance to any 
of my readers who care about Ireland at all. We 
were to be alone at lunch; and unfortunately, he 
told me, he had to go out soon afterwards, as he 
was on a committee for investigating the conditions 
in factories in that part of Meath, and the com 
mittee was meeting at three o clock. 

"A damned awkward time," he said, "but I must 



7 8 MY IRELAND 

go, because it was rather kind of them to put me 
on the committee at all, being what I am." 

"But are there any factories round here?" I asked. 

"Not yet," he said, "but there will be as soon as 
the Shannon scheme gets properly going in these 
parts, and we want to have the committee in run 
ning order, so as to be all ready when the factories 
get started. Come into the dining-room and we ll 
begin." 

I should explain that the Shannon scheme is the 
building of an electric plant on the Shannon, at 
the cost of 6 or 7 millions, in order to provide 
power for the great factories of Ireland. 

When I saw that my time was to be limited, I 
got to the business for which I had come as soon 
as possible; and, after inquiring about the health 
of his family and how his coverts were holding, I 
told him what I had come about. 

"I was wondering," I said, "what the people 
themselves really think of the political situation 
over here." 

"Yes, I wonder," he said. 

"I thought you d be the very person to know," I 
replied. 

"Well, yes," he said, "Fm rather in touch with a 
few of them, so I think perhaps I do. I don t mind 
telling you, if you really want to know." 

"Well, I rather did," I said. 

"Well," he said, "I ll tell you." 



A LAPSE OF MEMORY 79 

When he said no more, I suppose he saw me 
looking at him inquiringly instead of getting on 
with my lunch, so he said, "Not now," with the 
beginnings of a look over his shoulder to where 
a butler and two footmen were standing. "We ll 
have plenty of time before I have to go." 

But there was not plenty of time. Curiosity is 
known in all countries; and I have noticed that 
nothing seems to inflame it quicker than talk about 
politics. I can t think why, for it is a dull topic; 
but there it is. Those men lingered and lingered 
and lingered in the room, all three of them. I 
couldn t tell other people s servants to go, and I 
didn t even like to ask Charlie to, and yet as the 
time dragged by I realized that they were depriv 
ing me of everything I had come for, the culminat 
ing point of my whole book. 

Of course I loitered about the outskirts of the 
subject, continually making references to it; but I 
could not draw him while his servants were in the 
room, and it did not seem to occur to him to tell 
them to go. To one of my remarks he said: "Why 
do you want to know?" 

"Well, for various reasons," I said. I hardly like 
as a rule to say I am writing a book, because most 
of my friends regard a book as so silly, but he got 
it out of me. 

"Which particular reason?" he asked* 



8o MY IRELAND 

"Well, as a matter of fact/ I said, "I am writing 
a book about Ireland." 

"Why don t you write a book about England?" 
he said. "It s the greatest country in the world," 

"Well, the Irish say they are," I said. 

"Every people says its own country is the great 
est, I expect," he answered. "But one can prove it 
of England." 

"What is the proof?" I asked. 

"They do such damned silly things," he said, 
"and yet they survive. Their politicians do things 
that would ruin any other country; but it simply 
has no effect on them. They must be the greatest 
people in the world. No other people could stand 
it" 

"What kind of things?" I asked. 

"Oh, ail kinds of things," he replied. "Take the 
Great War for instance. They all knew it was 
coming. They weren t so damned silly as not to 
know that. And how did they prepare for it?" 

"How did they?" I asked. 

"By disbanding as many battalions of their 
picked troops as possible and several batteries of 
artillery." 

"What battalions?" I asked. 

"One battalion of the Grenadiers," he said, "and 
another battalion of Scots Guards. And they 
would have disbanded the jrd Coldstream, only 
that it was in Khartoum, and they didn t know 




Philip D. Gendreau, New York ^ fX 

SUNSET OVER THE RIVER SHANNON AT ^THLONE 



A LAPSE OF MEMORY 81 

where to find it But if somebody hadn t hidden it, 
the politicians would have disbanded that too. 
And then look at the way they drove the North to 
rebellion ; and went on at it till they d made sure 
of civil war. That was a pretty way to be playing 
the fool in July, 1914, with the Kiel canal all 
nicely finished, and everything ready for Armaged 
don. They are the greatest people in the world. 
Nobody else could do it" 

"That s a queer way of proving it," I suggested. 

"Queer? Not a bit," he said. "Why queer? If 
you tell me a man s the greatest chess-player in the 
world and you show him winning a game, that 
doesn t prove anything. But let me see him drop 
ping his knights on the floor and one or two of his 
rooks and a lot of his pawns, and perhaps a little 
bit drunk besides, and going on with the game and 
winning it in the end. Well, then I say, some 
player." 

"Yes, I see," I said. 

"It stands to reason," said Charlie. "It s the 
only real test. And then look at the Treaty. They 
threw away twenty-six counties, and didn t even 
trouble to see that the other side kept the treaty, 
as they called it" 

"Why didn t they do that?" I asked. 

"I ll tell you why," he said. "It s my impression 
that they ve forgotten that they ever made a treaty," 

"No, no," I said ; "that s impossible. They must 



82 MY IRELAND 

know that they came to some arrangement about 
Ireland." 

"I don t think so," he said, "Not the South of 
Ireland." 

"But how could they possibly not?" I protested. 

"I think they ve forgotten the South of Ireland," 
he said. 



i 



VIII 

Jack-snipe 



WAS depressed by not getting from my friend the 
information I wanted ; for I did not get it When 
eventually the servants left the dining-room we 
were talking of other things ; and by the time I was 
able to break off the topic a,nd was about to ask 
again for the information I came for, Charlie sud 
denly said: "I hope you will excuse me, but I 
must be off." 

And sure enough it was twenty to three, and he 
had some way to go. There seemed nothing to do 
now but to make the journey to Cranogue and see 
Old Mickey again, and get the whole situation 
from him ; for I could think of no one else besides 
him, and the two neighbors I had already con 
sulted, whose opinion I would trust for what is the 
crucial point of a book that aims at giving trust 
worthy information upon this very thing. The 
mere gossip of people who were not certain to 
know was not a sufficient basis on which to build 
the information that would be expected from me 
on such a subject, if I were to justify my preten 
sions in writing this book at all. On the other hand 
the journey to Cranogue and back would waste the 

83 



84 MY IRELAND 

best part of the day, and the shooting season was 
well started now, and the days were getting shorter ; 
so that I decided to go after snipe and duck Instead, 
and perhaps to jot down some notes about the wild- 
fowler s sport, and let the serious purpose of this 
book stand over until some day when it might be 
more convenient to go to Cranogue; for sport, after 
all, is as much a part of Ireland as politics. So 
next day I started off in the car after breakfast, 
with my gamekeeper and his Labrador retriever, 
and we motored to a bog a few miles away, a long 
line of marsh in a fold of the land that lay between 
two green slopes too small to be called hills. Years 
ago when I was selling an outlying property under 
the Wyndham Act, I told my tenants who had 
come to see me about it that I should like to keep 
the shooting rights. Their spokesman told me that 
I could do that If I liked ; though it was plain to 
me that they were all against it On the other hand 
he pointed out to me that the advantage of giving 
up the shooting rights would be that if ever I 
wanted to shoot over their land I would be wel 
come. 

Young though I was at that time I realized that 
to accept those men s hospitality, which in Ireland 
is boundless, would be better than to exercise any 
legal right, for which nobody in Ireland ever gives 
a damn. But it was not only these men s hospital 
ity that I have enjoyed, in pursuit of sport for 



JACK-SNIPE 85 

many years, for it somehow spread to others, for 
no other reason than that hospitality of this kind 
is an abundant virtue of the Irish people. And so, 
one way and another, I have enough shooting for 
the whole winter. And this is varied with an oc 
casional day s fox-hunting; days that grow fewer 
as my weight increases. I stopped at the farm 
house, which was on the main road ; and its ancient 
thatch was good to see. It was perhaps a little in 
need of repair, for the brown straw sloped to one 
very deep crevasse, which was all dark black, and 
green with moss at the edges. And house-leeks 
were growing on it, which the country people say 
are sent for a sign that the house will never be 
burned ; and it must be a true saying, for the juicy 
appearance of the fat stalk of the house-leek is an 
indication that it needs for its thriving about as 
much moisture as will be found in a marsh. And 
the thick old thatch is warm in winter, however 
much damp it may hold, and in summer it is the 
coolest roof there can be. Corrugated iron is grad 
ually covering the world; and this is deadly hot 
in summer, and always noisy. But besides these 
obvious disadvantages of corrugated iron com 
pared with thatch, corrugated iron makes one 
man s house look just the same as the next man s ; 
while thatch ages and mellows according to the 
storms and the years, and the length of time since 
it was last repaired. 



86 MY IRELAND 

And so It gives to each man s house some dif 
ferent look from the next, which is the way that 
men are made, different from one another; whereas 
machines are the same, by the hundred, and wea 
rily the same are the things they make, by the mil 
lion. And where any possession of man s reflects 
his way or his whims, he must feeel as he looks 
at it that he is the master ; but ? when he looks at any 
of the myriad work of machines, he may not reason 
it out like this, but cannot help being aware with a 
feeling deeper than reason that it Is the machine 
that is master here. Perhaps after the day of dic 
tators the machine will be proclaimed In many 
cities as paramount; and In those days I think that 
the Irishman s talent for rebellion will make him 
the last to give in to the new unnatural tyranny. 
As this thought passed through my mind, out came 
my friend the farmer, a man with a good black 
beard, a beard among the last of those that the 
mongers of razor-blades have not yet advertised 
off men s faces. He came out with the genial air 
that I always saw about him, an air that seemed to 
conceal that he was doing a favor to me r and that 
seemed to pretend that I was favoring his snipe, by 
preventing them from being too many and so 
crowding each other. All this he more or less ex 
pressed in words, when I asked his permission to 
shoot his bog once more. 



JACK-SNIPE 87 

"What way is the wind? 7 I asked. For that is 
important in snipe shooting. 

"Partly north," he said. 

"It seems in the south," I said, "by the smoke of 
your chimney." For just then I noticed that from 
a wooden box on his roof the smoke was blowing 
nearly away from the sun. 

"Aye, it s partly south," he said. 

And so it was. Soon I was walking down wind 
along the stretch of marshes that lay along either 
side of a small stream, marshes that are called the 
"black bog" to distinguish them from the real 
Irish bog, the great expanses of heather that lie 
further west It was in the dark of the moon, and 
the snipe would mostly be away from the red bogs, 
where they go to feed on a worm when the moon 
is full. The luring of the worm by the moon up 
from the deeps of the red bog is one of the many 
things that we know nothing about. No doubt it 
is quite as strong as the lure of gold with us. 

One walks down wind on the snipe, instead of 
the way one approaches all other game, because he 
always likes to fly against the wind. So that, in 
stead of flying away straight from you, he soon 
turns to left or right with a white flash, in order 
to get into the wind. He is a better mark then for 
many reasons, firstly because he does not get so far 
away in the time, secondly because his length is a 
bigger mark than his breadth, thirdly because the 



88 MY IRELAND 

white flash of his side is easily seen against the dull 
rushes ; and on the red bog, where all is dark and 
the snipe flies low, the flash of the white is particu 
larly helpful. Lying dead on the ground he is 
usually not white, but, as with most birds, the 
feathers of his back closely resemble acres of his 
surroundings; and to give the eye a chance of 
marking him it is a good thing for at least one man 
not to blink after the snipe has dropped, but to 
continue to stare at the same spot until he is within 
five yards of it. After that the finding of the snipe 
is work for a nose. 

It is essential not to speak when looking for 
snipe; scent is the principal warning to most ani 
mals, but to the snipe the human voice is the most 
definite proof of the presence of the enemy. Over 
and over again I have heard an ill-advised remark 
followed at once by the screech of rising snipe, and 
the flash of them going away, before one has come 
within shot They seem almost more afraid of it 
than of the sound of a gun. 

Some say snipe cannot smell. But they certainly 
breathe ; and they must know quite as much of the 
flavor of air as we do* Therefore I am inclined to 
think that it is a mistake to smoke, when going 
down wind on snipe ; even if one never smokes at 
all while shooting. 

I could not tell of Ireland, without a word on 



JACK-SNIPE 89 

the snipe : London without the sparrow would be 
a picture with lesser gaps in it 

Sometimes a snipe, that has been shot aM been 
gathered, is brought home and cooked for ten min 
utes, or even a quarter of an hour; even for twenty 
minutes, for all I know. Then it is brown like 
well-cooked beef, but not nearly so good to eat, and 
it would have been better to let him live. Five 
minutes are quite enough. Then the snipe is like 
the food that gourmets are given when they have 
been good to the poor and, with their gluttony 
pardoned, have gone to Heaven. 

Were I to tell of the snipe and not mention the 
jack-snipe, the omission would be so invidious that 
I might be thought by some to have a personal 
grudge against the smaller bird, probably due to 
my having missed him so often. The jack-snipe 
rises without any cry, and waits till danger is much 
closer than does his larger relation, whose relation 
ship is a much more distant thing than one might 
suppose from their having the same family name. 
He flies not quite so fast and with the apparent in 
tention of making no twists ; so that he seems a very 
easy bird to shoot. But just as one is going to 
shoot, he leaves his very gradual curve and goes 
off on another; and, though his twists are far less 
sudden than those of the snipe, his ways are de- 
.ceptive enough for him to be very easily missed, 
apart from there probably being room for him at 



90 MY IRELAND 

forty yards to fly through the middle of a charge 
of shot. He has long bright feathers, gayer than 
those of the "full snipe"; indeed there are more 
differences than resemblances between them; the 
resemblances being that they live in the same kind 
of country and get their food in the same way, with 
a long beak searching for worms down in the ooze. 

Probably due to his beak being shorter and 
softer, the jack-snipe is oft to be met on even bog 
gier ground than the common snipe; yet, in mak 
ing any statement, one has to beware of illusion, 
and though I have met with the jack-snipe nearly 
always just where the bog was becoming most dif 
ficult, this may only have been because the bigger 
snipe that may have been there in equal numbers 
were all away, as their habit is, before one got 
near, and before the bog all round began to shake 
with one s footsteps. 

This small bird is a great wanderer. One does 
not see him much before mid-December; and, 
when one does see him, one knows that the migra 
tion is come, and the foreign snipe are in. Half 
the common snipe that we see in Ireland, and 
nearly all the jack-snipe, nest far away in the 
North, and come to us rather later than the wood 
cock, which are said to prefer to travel by the full 
moon of November. I will tell a story about a jack- 
snipe, as I have known the same thing happen twice, 
and it warns sportsmen how they may possibly 



JACK-SNIPE 91 

waste their time. But it tells you something more 
than that; it tells how two men may both be sure 
they are right, and have good reason for being 
sure ; and all the .reasons are very sound, except 
that one of the two must be wrong. I had shot a 
jack-snipe and marked it well enough and showed 
my keeper where it fell, and he was looking for it 
with a Labrador retriever, one of the best I ever 
had. 

The dog searched and searched till the rushes 
were all trodden down. Perhaps we were there a 
quarter of an hour. The time had long since come 
when my keeper was sure that, if I had not missed 
the snipe, it had come to life again and flown away 
unperceived. He never thinks this at first, and 
will take my word for it that the bird is dead, for 
nearly ten minutes. But he was thinking it reso 
lutely now. And I was sure that the bird was 
there. He said that the dog would never have left 
it. He was as sure of his dog as I was sure of my 
gun. What had happened? And then the dog was 
quietly sick. And that explained everything. The 
jack-snipe is so small a bird that this one had 
slipped accidentally down his throat Not inten 
tionally; he would no more have done that than 
my gamekeeper would have done it And I once 
saw it happen in a river, when a dog was swim 
ming with a jack in his mouth, and the same thing 
occurred ; only that that time, if I rightly remem- 



92 MY IRELAND 

her, the bird stayed there for good. As for delib 
erate eating, I once knew that happen too* But 
that was done by a dog that lived as it were in the 
twilight between this world and romance. 

For it was a dog called Maria, told of in The 
Experiences of an Irish R.M.; and it turned out 
to be a real dog, as well as a character famous in 
fiction, or at least it was real on a day about thirty- 
five years ago when I was on a visit shooting near 
Skibereen with neighbors of the owner of that dog. 
It was a spaniel, and we were all looking for a 
snipe that someone had shot, and Maria found it 
and ate it And I remembered how thrilled I was 
to meet even a dog out of that famous book. It is 
perhaps hard on my publisher to say it, but the 
bare fact remains that readers will get more of 
Ireland from that book than from anything I can 
tell them. But, alas, it is an Ireland, too much of 
which, someone has muddled away. 

But I was telling how I went to shoot snipe in 
some marshes. We walked them all the morning, 
with the wind behind me; and I made a bag of 
snipe. How many they were I do not tell the 
reader, for he would give no thanks to Heaven be 
cause of it They were not many. When I came 
back to the road the farmer was at his door, admir 
ing the morning and waiting to hear what I had 
shot I told him my small total of snipe and jacks. 

"Ah, glory be to God," he said- 



IX 

Woodcock 

CARTRIDGES are rare with us in Meath, where we 
grow beef rather than corn; and the pheasant is 
rather a dull bird to the sportsman. So I will not 
write about either of them. Yet the pheasant is by 
no means dull to the eye, as I was reminded when 
sending a brace to one of my tenants and finding 
when next I visited that house that the larder was 
thought altogether unworthy of such gorgeous 
birds. They stood in a glass case in the parlor. 
The woodcock is a bird far worthier of a sports 
man, for his coming depends not on temporal 
things, like a check to a poulterer, but on powers 
that can grip man as well as the woodcock: the 
north wind and the cold. You do not depend for 
the woodcock on anything you can control, but on 
some fierce favorable wind and the full moon and 
the winter. 

And if the number of woodcocks eggs is affected 
by men at all, it is not by some poulterer in any 
city, but hungry Russians along the Arctic Circle, 
or Laplanders, or I know not what northern men, 
who may be taking their eggs ; or so a bad year for 
woodcock may sometimes be accounted for. Or 

93 



94 MY IRELAND 

sometimes one s speculations guess a storm, rising 
up on the wrong night and striking the birds on 
their journey. And however wide of the truth 
these speculations be, how far better it is to consult 
some weatherwise old man about the chances of the 
woodcock s arrival than to study the price of eggs 
in any list We do not know much of these flights 
from the far North to Ireland. Dead birds lying 
about lighthouses may give a clue to the man who 
would spy as a detective upon Nature; but it is 
only a clue. An airman told me that at 12,000 feet 
he had seen a rook, a woodcock and a swan; but 
two travelers passing each other in lonely places do 
not often know where the other is going. And then 
there is the heavy drag of the air at extreme 
heights, lagging behind the spin of the world east 
wards, which means a wind always blowing at a 
hundred miles an hour the opposite way of the 
world. That may help these strange journeys. 

One Irishman who had lived half his life in 
Yorkshire and had then come back to Ireland, and 
who had shot at least one woodcock a year for sixty 
years, told me that the woodcock were always in 
when you heard about Shadrach, Meshach and 
Abednego in the Lesson. But that was Yorkshire 
lore and may not apply to Ireland. One may get 
some clue to their coming by watching other birds, 
birds that move by day and are more easily seen, 
for I have never seen a flight of woodcock in my 



WOODCOCK 95 

life. When the geese move inland in their travel 
ing formation, like the barbed head of an arrow, 
there are storms somewhere that have moved them, 
or great cold, and winter is coming southwards. 
What spring is to the poet, or summer to the crick 
eter, winter is to the sportsman. He waits for what 
the storms of that season will send him, and in a 
very humble way has a certain remote familiarity 
with the four great winds and the snow, such as 
the habitual onlooker at test matches comes to have 
with famous cricketers. 

And whether his prognostications, or those of 
the weatherwise old men he consults, are right or 
wrong he comes to feel he has some part in the 
mystery of the march of the seasons round the 
world, and their servants the moon and the storms. 
Forerunners of these mighty things, the seasons 
and tempests, are also the golden plover ; they will 
move at a touch of frost and go southwards or to 
the sea, mimicking in their flight the marching 
order of that great people the geese. When they 
move southwards it may also be a sign that the 
splendor of winter is becoming too arduous, and 
that the woodcock will soon be here. 

When the flight has safely stolen into the coun 
try, past the full moon over the sea, we may still 
have to look for them without finding many; for, 
if they move southward from winter faster than 
winter can follow, they will go to the gorse and the 



96 MY IRELAND 

heather, or make themselves comfortable in rushy 
fields or In ditches, till a frown comes into the sky 
and winter overtakes them. Then with the first 
fall of snow they go to the big woods, to sit on the 
southern side of the trunk of a good tree, or under 
the branches of spruce, that do for them what 
slates do for us, turning white and silent with snow, 
and letting none of it through. For, however su 
perior we are to the woodcock, we have like him 
the job of keeping ourselves warm. Possibly, if 
we could meet as disembodied spirits, far from our 
present prejudices and preferences, and could dis 
cuss the matter, we might admit that the wood 
cock s way of keeping warm, with a big trunk to 
the north of him and his feathers puffed out, and 
the storm rushing angrily by him a few inches 
away, was more exciting than ours* Possibly the 
spirit of the woodcock would not change, even if 
the change is allowed, his shelter of timber and 
branches or couch of moss, for our fires and our 
easy chairs and our bell to ring for more coaL 
And perhaps if we offered those comforts of ours 
in exchange, we might see the contempt of a spirit 
that had known the north wind close, for those who 
had heard it rarely and as a stranger. This seems 
to me likely enough, though some may find it too 
fanciful. But those who do not care for fanciful 
things have no reason to read about Ireland- 
The woodcock leaves the wood in search of food 



WOODCOCK 97 

as furtively as he arrived in the country. Men sit 
ting for duck, or walking late in quiet fields, may 
see a dark shape flit by at the end of the gloaming, 
and that rarely; and that is all one sees of the 
woodcock s evening journey. Men who have seen 
badgers may see the woodcock flighting, and tinkers 
camping in lanes ; but many a man s life-time may 
pass away without seeing the woodcock once. For 
he does not fly about like other birds by day, and is 
only seen then by those who drive him out of his 
haunts. One learns at first the places that are 
likely to hold a woodcock, always supposing that 
his vehicle has duly arrived, the north wind or the 
snow; and in the course of years one may come to 
learn the line that he will probably fly from any 
particular piece of covert. 

For there seem to be highways and bypaths of 
the air by which birds prefer to travel, just as in 
wide fields the careful eye may notice that animals 
do not cross them anywhere, but travel by little 
tracks.. Standing on the same spot from which I 
shot my first woodcock, I have twice got a right 
and left at them. As I have not very often got a 
right and left at woodcock at all, this would indi 
cate that the trees, and the air-currents made by 
their shapes, would be favorable just there to aerial 
traffic. The color of a woodcock varies ; either be 
cause they have in them some of the quality of the 
chameleon, and change their color after living 



98 MY IRELAND 

awhile amongst bracken or dead leaves, until they 
resemble one of these things exactly, or because a 
woodcock of certain coloring goes to ground that 
resembles it 

Whichever way it be, a woodcock lying on the 
ground is invisible; and, in addition to that, his 
scent is not easily picked up by a dog. Having 
been picked up, he can be spoiled as the snipe can 
be spoiled, by over-cooking, though perhaps not 
quite so completely. If the legs are broken off at 
the knees before the woodcock are brought to the 
larder, the sinews are thereby loosened, and they 
say that the bird is tenderer. Those to whom the 
woodcock is rare may keep his pin-feather, a very 
delicate feather to be found under the rudimentary 
wing that emerges at the joint of the real wing. 
I do not keep them myself, but I never fail to be 
cheered when, in a town or anywhere far from 
woods, I see a solemn and urban bowler hat bright 
ened by one of these tiny but unmistakable feathers 
showing above the hat-band. I feel then that 

As an Arab wandereth in a waste of Ayaman 

he probably does not expect to meet another Arab, 
on account of Ayaman not being on the map ; yet, 
if he does, he must know some of that unexpected 
pleasure that comes to me when on pavement or 
near the wastes of it I meet a man with the wood 
cock s feather. 



WOODCOCK 99 

Though I have certainly never shown any grati 
tude to the woodcock, I am grateful to him for the 
romance of his great journeys, which add a thrill to 
sport It is the same with the wild geese, and all 
these wanderers: they seem to bring the ends of 
the earth nearer; or rather, though leaving them 
infinitely remote, they bring their mystery nearer, 
till the splendor of Arctic mountains and Northern 
Lights are things at which our imaginations can 
peer, as they might otherwise never do, were they 
not awoken from sleep by the call in the sky that 
the geese make high in a wind going triumphing 
southwards; or the sudden notes that a magical 
shepherd might draw from a hidden flute, which 
teach that the golden plover are moving inland 
from storms. Once by a camp-fire in Africa a man 
told me how, near where we then were, he had 
been called from his tent by his gun-bearer and 
saw a herd of elephants going by in the moonlight, 
quite silently, and evidently making some great 
journey. I felt, as I heard that story, as I do when 
I learn that the woodcock are in, or I hear the 
geese going over; it is as though for a moment we 
had a surreptitious glimpse of the affairs of Na 
ture, great enterprises closely in touch with winds 
and seasons and moonlight, beside which our un 
dertakings appear narrow and local. 

If one s imagination can sometimes follow a bit 
of the flight of woodcock or geese, and admire 



ioo MY IRELAND 

their starry journeys. It must seem inconsistent to 
shoot them. But if Ireland gave me the imagina 
tion, Ireland made me a sportsman. It is not con 
sistency that we have from the ages, but impulses 
rolling up, sometimes from remote places, and 
drifting us this way and that 



X 

Gray Lags 

ERHAPS there is no better condiment to flavor 
sport, or any other occupation of man, than variety ; 
and a well-mixed bag is always more attractive to 
me than an even heavier bag all filled with the 
same bird. Moreover the ultimate object of shoot 
ing is food ; and, if one only shot one kind of bird, 
one could not have it for dinner every day of the 
winter, as one does where there is sufficient variety. 
The golden plover is one of the birds that may help 
to bring variety to the larder almost at any time ; 
for one may come on him in tame green fields, 
lying outside woods when one is after woodcock or 
pheasants, or one may hear the sudden whirr of a 
flock of them sweeping over, when walking in 
wilder country after snipe. 

Or, at the end of a day, one may lie out on a 
piece of waterproof in a field and wait for their 
flighting. But to know the field that they come to ; 
that is the difficulty. I knew such a field once, but 
another man got to know it too, and the golden 
plover left it years ago. And then for a short while 
I knew another such field ; but it was close to a 
town, and I did not go there very often before the 

101 



102 MY IRELAND 

news that the golden plover came there for their 
flighting spread. I remember the large arc-lights 
in the town twinkling out as the evening faded. 
Far from spoiling the beauty of twilight and the 
feeling of hush on the earth, which always comes 
with this hour, those lights a few fields away only 
intensified the pleasure I felt at being alone with 
the evening. 

Only a few fields away was the system that holds 
us all in stronger or weaker grip the urban system, 
orderliness and regularity, that reaches far out into 
every countryside ; but the hunter of anything feels 
that he does not belong to it The poet makes his 
escape from systems too ; but every kind of hunter 
is right outside it; his art began before cities. 
Watching the beauty of twilight glimmering in the 
sky and enjoying the contrast of all the things it 
enchanted, with the town whose lights were twin 
kling, I waited to hear the flute-like note of the 
plover or the whirr of their rapid wings. It was 
the hour when they should come, and as almost 
always seems to happen when waiting for any ani 
mal, from tigers to golden plover, one went on 
waiting after the hour at which one had thought 
they would come. All the small birds were home, 
and the rooks had gone over, and still no golden 
plover. 

And all of a sudden at last I heard their note and 
even the whirr of their wings, but they were going 



GRAY LAGS 103 

over as high as traveling geese. Not long passed 
then, and they came back again. And all of a 
sudden they dipped, and out of the sky they came 
down like a waterfall, and soon poured over a 
, hedge and into the field where I was. They raced 
past me not within shot, and wheeled and came 
back again. When they came over the hedge again 
at the same spot and went by on the same line, as 
though they were following an aerial race-course, 
I decided it was time to move, although moving 
one s ground is not always a good thing, and when 
done at the edge of night is usually bad. 

I got up and ran, and lay down at a spot they had 
passed over. And I got there in time, and they 
came round once again. And I got two shots as 
their white forms flashed by me. I think that to 
watch birds falling out of a flock of golden plover 
requires a quicker eye than what is needed to shoot 
them; for I have often seen men, who were good 
enough with a gun, unable to see more than one 
bird drop, when there might be two or three. And 
another difficulty there is in picking up golden 
plover at evening; and that is that the grass looks 
so bright and clear that it seems that one can easily 
spare two or three minutes to get another shot or 
two before picking the birds up. And the three 
minutes drag on to five or six, and night is suddenly 
down amongst the blades of grass, where the golden 
plover are hard enough to see even by daylight. 



io 4 MY IRELAND 

The golden plover is not green, and neither is 
grass in winter; but the yellow glint of wintry grass 
in the sunlight and the dark shadows amongst the 
blades of it are imitated in a golden plover s plum 
age exactly. It took me some time to gather the 
birds, or to have them gathered for me by the re 
triever that my gamekeeper brought into the field 
when I whistled ; and as we looked for them the 
night shrilled again and again with the notes of 
wandering flocks of golden plover that pass up and 
down in their aerial dances before they rest for the 
night The electric lamps of the town glared now 
against the calm of the darkness. 

And then there is sitting for duck. When it is 
cold and getting dark, and sometimes even snow 
ing, one would never go out of doors were it not 
for sport And how much one would have missed 
if one had not seen, out where one seems alone with 
it, the sunset turning the sky to a glory of colors, 
till the gloaming dwindles away and the stars are 
suddenly there. Or the soft pat, pat of the snow, 
and the gentle touch of the flakes, like the cold 
small hand of the ghost of an elfin thing. One 
would not have missed that either. Nor the cry of 
a strong wind s rage when it roars from the north, 
and brings the duck In low and drowns the sound 
of one s shooting. Or quiet evenings when winds 
go sighing faintly over the bog and whisper once 
to the rushes and are quite silent again, and the 



GRAY LAGS 105 

quiet dim glow of the sky is quiet and dim in the 
water, and the bog-rail croaks and croaks and no 
other sound is heard. Far away from the dry land 
the bell of a chapel tolls, and all is silent again. 
Again the bog-rail, and again complete silence. 
Then a wafting of air is heard and rooks go over, 
on their way to dry land and trees. The singing 
birds, with their little giddy flight, wavering up 
and down, have long gone by to their hedges. On 
such a night as that, quiet and still, I was out on a 
bog a few years ago with my gamekeeper. First 
of all in a ragged wood of firs, on the last of the 
dry land, I had waited for pigeons and shot one or 
two. But as soon as the air began to get mysterious, 
and the light had the look of a hand held up to say 
Hush, I walked out into the bog in my favorite 
suit of clothes, which is waterproof and fastens 
over the shoulders. It is made for fishermen, but 
is well suited to that particular bog. There must 
be places in it at which one might go over one s 
head, for a herdsman whose house in the fields was 
the last one saw on the way once warned me that 
in parts it was bottomless; which was an exag 
gerated description, but not an impractical one, 
for, when you are over your head, what interest 
have you any more in a foothold? I came to some 
little islands on which low bog-myrtle grew. 

And on one of these I chose a place for myself, 
and lay down facing the west. One prefers to face 



io6 MY IRELAND 

west on these occasions, because one can see to shoot 
In that direction after night is behind one, and on 
one s left and right Sometimes then one sees splen 
dors of sunsets unknown in cities, splendors that 
often enough we miss even out in the country. And 
the light by which I wanted to shoot was fading 
with all its glories, while I waited alone with the 
bog-rail. The rooks on their long journey were 
gone, and the little singing birds that sometimes 
cross the bog were all home to their hedges; and 
then some green plover went reeling by with their 
uncouth gait, so unlike the arrowy flight of the 
golden plover and looking very black in what was 
left of the light And then nothing came for a 
long while. It was geese I was waiting for. 

The evening star appeared. And very soon after 
that I heard the slow quack of the first duck to 
arrive, and even the whirr of its wings; but I did 
not see it, for it was on the dark side of me, to the 
east More came and went down in the bog, and 
I could hear them quacking on the water. Once 
in the dark that was now closing down on the bog 
I heard the quick small whistle of several teaL 
Then there was silence again ; a silence on which 
the bog-rail intruded once, and then left it un 
broken. There was a long silence then, and the 
light was slowly fading. And then I heard the 
first note of the geese away in the northwest 
And suddenly they all broke out into their jubilant 
outcry, and soon after that I saw them coming 



GRAY LAGS 107 

towards me, in a long line and coming low. There 
must have been more than thirty of them, gray lags. 
The little islands to which I had come were where 
the geese had been before, and they seemed to be 
coming very nearly straight for them. They were 
to the north of me now and the light was bad, and 
I missed with my right barrel and fired again as 
they passed. And they disappeared in the dark ? 
and I heard the thump that is made by a falling 
goose coming down on a still night. The first thing 
I did was to tie my handkerchief to a bit of bog- 
myrtle that grew on the little island where I was. 
Without this the bog could hide all one s bearings, 
like fancies lost to one s memory. Then I went to 
find my gamekeeper; and he and I and the dog 
looked for the goose. It was the dog that found 
him in the dark, and a fine effort it is for a retriever 
to drag a gray lag over the bog. We came away, 
all three of us very pleased, to the dry land, steer 
ing by lights with which little windows far off were 
cheering the cold and the loneliness. And we came 
to a road, with my goose, where a motor was wait 
ing for us. It was a fine plump goose and we 
talked a good deal of him, though I have no mem 
ory of what we said. But these words I seem to 
remember, when we got home, at the end of our 
conversation : 

"I wouldn t say anything about all those men 
that we saw, and we coming away from the bog," 

"I didn t see any," I said. 



XI 

Business 



A, 



JRE you coming out tomorrow? * said a friend 
to me, for the hounds were to be within five miles 
of me. 

"No," I said. <C I am writing a book about Ire 
land, and want to get on with it" 

"About Ireland," he said. "What are you telling 
them?" 

"Qh, sport/ I said, "and poetry and history, and 
of course politics. But not much history, for the 
book is to be in one volume, and that volume is to 
be lifted with one hand." 

"Another reason why much history would be out 
of place in a book about Ireland," he said, (i is that 
they none of them know any of it" 

"I thought it was one of the things the people are 
fondest of," I said. 

"They are," said he, "but in the schools, where 
they learn it, it is only used as missiles to throw at 
England, so that it gets rather tattered. It is very 
exciting of course, but you couldn t any longer call 
it history, after it has been the round of a few 
schools." 

108 



BUSINESS 109 

"Well, I don t know very much about it myself," 
I said. 

"No, nobody does," he replied. "But you re 
right to give them sport; and I think there s some 
poetry in all of them." 

"Their talk is full of it," I answered, "and all 
their legends." 

"Yes," he said. "But what are you doing about 
politics?" 

And then I told him about Old Mickey, and how 
there was one thing that everybody would want to 
know and Old Mickey was going to tell it me. 

"Yes, you ll have to tell them that," he said. 
"But what about business? You should say some 
thing of that" 

"Oh, yes," I said, "I suppose I should." 

But the remark rather bothered me, we haven t 
very much business in County Meath. We used to 
sell fat cattle before the treaty and got 35 a head. 
We still sell fat cattle; but, as we only get from 
12 to 14 a head for them, one can hardly call 
that business. 

"What business is there?" I asked. 

"Well, there s Guinness," he said. "And there s 
bound to be some more somewhere, if only you 
look for it. Anyway you ll have to have something 
about it in your book." 

We were both agreed about that And I decided 



no MY IRELAND 

to make further inquiries, and with the help of 
them to study the matter locally. 

And by good luck I met next day just the kind 
of man that I wanted, a man whose kindness had 
helped me to get many a teal ; for he had not only 
showed me a reedy pond to which the teal came, 
but many a time he had driven them for me, telling 
me just where to hide myself and seeming to know 
exactly the line that the teal would fly. He was 
an old friend of mine, who had known a good deal 
of prison in his youth; and the imprisonment, 
while gaining him the respect of all his neighbors, 
had never Impaired his cheerfulness. Now that 
the words will soon be in cold print I begin to 
realize that to know the flight of teal is not in itself 
sufficient qualification for knowledge about busi 
ness, and that there may even be amongst my read 
ers some that will hold that before venturing to 
address them upon this matter I should have found 
an adviser with better qualifications. That may be 
so; indeed it is incontrovertible; and I should cer 
tainly have done so. On the other hand I was not 
at once able to find a man with the better qualifica 
tions, and I was undoubtedly hindered in my search 
for one by a certain charm that there was in 
Stephen O Lara, who now stood before me, and 
who would, I believe, have exerted the same mis 
leading charm on the most critical of my readers; 
but that, of course, I cannot prove. I had found 



BUSINESS in 

him a good deal occupied watching a river. It 
was a bright morning, and he was leaning over a 
bridge and did not recognize me till I spoke to him. 
Then he jumped up, all smiles. 

"I was watching the river," he said, "and didn t 
see you." 

"It s a fine day to be doing it," said I. 

"Begob," he said, "it must take a long time to 
get to the sea, the pace it s going now." 

"It g$ts there all right," I said. 

"I was wondering did it ever get there," he 
answered. 

"How is the country doing?" I asked. 

"Sure, it s doing grand," he said. 

"And how is business doing?" I asked. 

"Business is it?" said he. 

"Well, yes," I said. "I rather wanted to make a 
study of it." 

"Sure it s doing grand too," said O Lara. "They 
are after opening a great new bank over at Boher- 



meen." 



"At Bohermeen?" I said. 

"Aye," he said, "to the west of the road." 

It was the kind of thing that I wanted to know. 

"That s the road to Fahan," I asked, so as to 
make no mistake. 

"Aye, three or four hundred yards from the 
crossroads," he said. 

"When did they build it?" I asked. 



ii2 MY IRELAND 

"They re just after finishing it ? " he said, 

"Who is the manager?" 

"The honestest man in all Ireland, 5 he said. 

And then he told me this rather interesting story. 

"Pat had a bit of an army of young lads down in 
the West, no more nor about half a dozen. He 
wasn t the general himself, but there was another 
lad over him. And one day he went into the big 
bank that there is down there, and asked to see the 
manager. And the manager came out of his office, 
all business and buttons, and said : What can I do 
for you? 

"And the young lads put up their pistols, and 
Pat said : I want 4000. 

"And the manager said: I haven t got It 

"And Pat said : Then you ve not long to live. 1 

"And the manager said: I might scrape it to 
gether. 

"And he did. 

" Can I put it into some bags for you?* said the 
manager, 

" You need not/ said Pat Do you think I am 
going about with all that money on me? Sure, I 
wouldn t be able to walk. 

" I thought you wanted to take it away, said the 
manager* 

" Have more sense/ said Pat 

" Then what do you want to do with it? he 
asked. 



BUSINESS 113 

" Sure, I ll bank it, said Pat 

" Where? said the manager. 

" With you. Why not? said Pat You can put 
it to my account 

" I ll want a specimen of your signature, said 
the manager. 

" There ll be no difficulty about that, said Pat 
For they had learned him to write. So he wrote 
down his signature, and they all walked away ; and 
Pat turned his head round, as he was going out, in 
the doorway, and said: Is there a priest handy? 

"And the manager said : There is. 

" Because, said Pat, if ever I come here for the 
money and don t find it, you ll want him in a great 
hurry. 7 

"With that he went away, and there was 4000 
to his credit in the bank. Am I tiring you?" 

"You are not," I said. "What happened?" 

"Well, a few weeks went by and then the general 
that I told you about, who was over Pat, died one 
night from the prod of a cow s horn. I knew the 
doctor who attended him, and he told me that that 
was what he died of. It went through the whole 
length of his body. It must have been a very long 
horn, said the doctor to me, and a very thin one. 
But that was not my affair. Well, when Pat heard 
the general was dead, and being a queer fellow and 
the honestest man in Ireland, what s he do but go 
back to the manager of the bank and give him back 



ii 4 MY IRELAND 

his 4000. Yes, he done that He did Indeed. 
And when they wanted an honest man to run a 
bank, what did they do only get Pat? And where 
could they have got a better? For he knew a little 
about banking, through having had an account of 
his own, and he was dead honest And it s a true 
story I m telling you." 

"I want nothing but the truth," I said, "for Pm 
writing a book about Ireland*" 

"It s God s truth," he said. 

And then I left him to look at the river, while 
I went home to write about business. 

But when I got home I decided that I had best 
first go and see Bohermeen, and have a talk with 
the manager of the new bank. 

So when my gamekeeper came to see me next 
morning to ask me where I would shoot, I told 
him that I couldn t shoot that day, as I had some 
business to attend to and wanted to see the manager 
of the bank at Bohermeen. 

"I never heard of a bank at Bohermeen/ he said. 

"No. It s a new one," said L 

"But it would be a grand place for snipe," he 
said, "and there s none of the men with rights in 
the bog who will object to your going there." 

"Well, I ll take my gun," I said, "and we ll bring 
the dog, and I might get some shooting when I ve 
finished the business I have to do," 

But I said no more of the bank; for, though I 



BUSINESS 115 

valued his opinions on sport, I did not think that 
he had sufficiently accurate knowledge of business 
to justify me in basing upon his opinion on bank 
ing the information about business in Ireland that 
I desire to give to my reader. And soon we were 
off, with dog and gun in the car, to Bohermeen, 
which lies northwest from Tara. One cannot see 
from the famous hill the low levels to which I 
went, but very clearly one can see the Hill of 
Fahan, against whose feet laps the heather of 
Bohermeen. I have seen the Hill of Fahan from 
Tara at evening, with its wood on top turning ruby, 
till the gap that there is in the wood becomes like a 
gateway of Fairyland. The low steep hill in the 
plain is one of the principal landmarks of the 
country. We came to Klimessan hill, where the 
land dips to the west, and we saw Meath and West- 
meath lying blue before us. We crossed the Boyne, 
and went through. lands of green pastures, till we 
came to little fields of coarser grass, which very 
soon ceased altogether, and we came to the lower 
levels of the bog, that men have plundered but not 
yet tamed. A few young birches stood there, that 
men had planted in rows along ditches that they 
had dug, and some turf-stacks stood there drying ; 
but there was nothing else on those levels that told 
of the work of man. A road ran very lonely over 
the bog, looking almost shy of its own sophistica 
tion amongst ancient primitive nature. And then 



n6 MY IRELAND 

another road ran away to the right So narrow was 
this one that It seemed almost to slink over the bog, 
like a man in. patent-leather boots, tall hat and 
frock coat going on tiptoe through an encampment 
of gipsies, knowing he had no business there. This 
was the road we followed, till I came to the exact 
spot of which O Lara had told me. The low levels 
of the cut-away bog had ended before I came there 
and the long black cliff lay before us at the edge 
of the high bog, its outline jagged by the turf- 
cutters. It was two hundred yards past this that 
O Lara had told me I should come on the new 
bank. I stopped the car, and the distance seemed 
about right and I should have been standing just 
about at the doorway. But no bank was there, 
nothing but pale brown grasses, with patches of 
heather amongst them, and a view over bog un 
broken but for one dark row of pines to the left- 
hand side of the view and a small wood to the right, 
and some mountains that are in Westmeath rising 
beyond it Behind me on the other side of the road 
Jay the lower levels with patches of whitish grass 
and patches of moss, and square pools shining; I 
saw a loose donkey there, and one in a cart, and 
two men standing by turf-stacks. I looked again 
over the bog, and away to those mountains in West 
meath, but the only sign of sophistication I saw was 
one broken bottle, that had been thrown to the bog 
from the road ; but certainly no bank. Had I been 



BUSINESS 117 

content to write about the Ireland I know, instead 
of wishing to instruct my reader about whatever 
business may be done in the country, I should not 
have been out on this wild-goose-chase. Let the 
metaphor pass : I know of no more unsuitable one 
by which to describe a search for a bank; but let 
it pass. 

"We d better shoot snipe," I said to my keeper. 
And that is what we did. 

I was rather annoyed with O Lara for sending 
me off on this absurd quest, when it was solid in 
formation I wanted; so I went a little out of my 
way, coming back, so as to find O Lara. And I 
found him, where I usually find him, not far from 
the Boyne ; and he seemed as pleased as ever to see 
me, and seemed to know, too, where I was coming 
from, and looked as though he were happy to have 
provided me with just the information I wanted. 
I seemed to see all that in his smile. But all I said 
to him by way of greeting was : 

"There is no bank at Bohermeen." 

"Ah," he replied, "perhaps it was a turf-bank I 
meant." 

"You told me," I said, though my annoyance was 
melting before his smiling face as I spoke, "that 
there was a particularly honest man as manager 
there, and I went all the way to have a talk with 
him." 

"Sure, everything I told you about him was 



ii8 MY IRELAND 

true," said O Lara. "Doesn t the whole country 
know It? And what for do you want his right 
address? Wouldn t the story about him be just as 
true whatever address I gave you? Begob, it 
would. And maybe the wrong address might be 
better* But, sure, I ll find him for you and bring 
him to see you." 

"It doesn t matter/ I said. 

"What was it you wanted him for?" said O Lara. 

"I wanted to have a talk with him about busi 
ness," I said. "I m writing a book about Ireland, 
and they ll want to know what business the country 
does." 

"Haven t we Guinness?" said he. "And what 
do we want with any more business than that? 
Don t they pay millions in taxes?" 

And then a troubled look came over his face. 

"Begob," he said, "I ve nearly given up drinking 
it" 

"Why s that?" I gasped. 

"Because of a dream I had," said O Lara, "after 
drinking no more nor a bottle. And then I went to 
bed and I had the dream." 

"What was the dream?" I asked. 

"Begob/ 1 said he, "it was terrible. I dreamed 
that I walked down to the shore of the sea one eve 
ning; I don t know what I was doing there, but I 
walked down to the shore ; and it was somewhere 
near Dublin, for I could see the Wicklow moun- 



BUSINESS 119 

tains. And it wasn t night, for there was still some 
light in the sky; but it was getting late. And the 
shore was crowded with people all looking out to 
sea. And I said, What s the matter, boys? And 
one or two of them answered, It is the end, and 
went on looking out to sea. So I looked too, in my 
dream. And I saw the horizon all dark with the 
smoke of ships, and the people staring at them as 
though the end of the world were there. Begob, I 
said to myself, it s the English fleet, and those great 
big shells will be coming soon. 

"For the smoke was tearing up and the sky was 
black as thunder. 

" Is it the English fleet? I said. 

"But they had all gone silent, and wouldn t speak 
any more. 

"And then I saw that the ships were nearer than 
they looked in the evening. They weren t far away 
at all, and were quite small. And I took a man by 
the arm who was standing quite near me and I 
shook him, and said, Those little boats can t hurt 
us; sure, they re no bigger than Guinness boats 
that do be on the Lifify. 

"And the man gave a great sigh and said, It is 
what they are. 

"And I cried out then, Ah, boys, is it Guiness s 

going? 

"And I knew from the awful stillness that this 



was so. 



120 MY IRELAND 

"And I daren t have a sup of porter before going 
to bed any more, for fear would I get that dream." 

"Oh, I wouldn t bother," I said, "It was only a 
dream." 

For he looked so doleful, I had to say something 
to try to cheer him. 

"It isn t the dream I mind," he said, "but all 
the truth that there is in it" 



XII 

John Watson 

JL HE thought comes to me to make a claim for 
Ireland, that the people of other countries, should 
these words ever come to their eyes, are not likely 
to allow; for it is to claim that we have more per 
sonalities, per head, than they have in other parts 
of the disunited Kingdom. And that is a claim 
to a part of Heaven s wealth. As oaks grow best 
in wide clearings so personalities probably best 
thrive far from cities, and unaffected by the in 
fluences that cities throw out to great distances 
round them. These influences may be summed up 
as tending to orderliness and to sameness, while 
personality has other ingredients. Personality in 
Ireland is limited to no class, nor could I point to 
any class in Ireland that tended to produce more 
personalities than another. 

Looking back at the forceful men that I have 
known, my memories come first to John Watson, 
Master of the Meath Hounds. It is hard to define 
personality and hard even to analyze how one has 
been impressed by one: the thing is probably a 
combination of the work a man does and the char 
acter that he puts into the doing of it. John Wat- 

121 



122 MY IRELAND 

son was not only a master of hounds but he was 
also a huntsman and a field-master, three jobs not 
frequently undertaken by one man, and all three 
done by John Watson consummately. A man may 
be a fine huntsman and yet kill few foxes, if he is 
not a good field-master or has not one to control 
his field for him, A few enthusiastic riders riding 
over the line, and occasionally heading the fox, 
will spoil any hunt 

But John Watson s imposing figure, his fine 
voice, and his tremendous language, awed his field, 
who obeyed him just as his hounds did. Polite and 
pleasant as he was off a horse, on hunting days he 
spared neither age nor sex. But I must be strictly 
accurate, remembering that I am making the at 
tempt to describe Ireland and the Irish people: 
there was one lady with whom he never found 
fault, whatever she did, the Honorable Mrs. Dew- 
hurst She won his lifelong respect like this: one 
day many many years ago, she or her horse having 
exceeded the length to which he felt his field ought 
to go, he turned to her and said, "Woman! Go 
home." 

She did not obey; but turned to him and said, 
"Go home yourself, you damned son of a bald- 
headed Carlow onion." 

John Watson never forgot it, and never ad 
dressed a cross word to her again. 

I remember one wet day when a lady jumped on 



JOHN WATSON 123 

one of John Watson s hounds. He was annoyed, 
and said so ; though I don t remember his words. 
And then he drew the covert blank, outside which 
this episode had occurred. And it was raining all 
the time, and the rain went on. And he drew an 
other covert blank. And still the rain fell. All 
that day John Watson drew coverts blank, and all 
day long it rained. And when the last covert was 
drawn, John Watson turned to the lady in the rain, 
and we realized then that during all that bad day 
he must have been brooding on what she had done, 
for he called out to her, hours after her uninten 
tional offense: "My good woman! Next time you 
hunt with my hounds, I ll ask you not to do so in 
the middle of them." 

I remember noticing that day that I was really 
wet to the skin, and that the water was running 
along it, only as I rode in at my gate ; till then the 
good cloth of a hunting-coat had kept out anything 
more than mere damp. 

It was a large country that John Watson hunted ; 
there must have been a thousand square miles in it; 
and he hunted it five days a week. On the odd day, 
that was Wednesday, he used to go out with the 
Ward Stag-hounds, a hard-riding hunt that gives 
to the inhabitants of Dublin, its suburbs and neigh 
borhood, a sight of the hills of Meath and the plain 
of Kildare. So hard-riding a hunt are they that a 
story is told, and passed on again as worth telling, 



i2 4 MY IRELAND 

how once a man out with the Ward who had 
jumped on another rode back to apologize. His 
horse was hard to hold and it took him some while 
to stop him and turn him back from the hunt. But 
he did turn back, and rode back to apologize. And 
the man who had been jumped on was just getting 
on to his feet, and the other man s horse was still 
hard to hold, and he knocked him down again. 

All the summer John Watson played polo. He 
never rested ; and at last he wore himself out 

Once when I was playing cricket for the Phoenix 
Park Cricket Club on their lovely ground, near 
enough to the Dublin mountains to see the whole 
range of them clear, and far enough to see the smile 
on their faces that they only let you see at a certain 
distance, I walked away during our innings and 
came to the edge of a crowd that was watching a 
game of polo. 

"Who is playing?" I asked of a friend that I met 
as I came up. 

"John Watson, n he said. 

"Who else? 7 I asked. 

"Well, I don t know them," he said, "but I heard 
John Watson saying *Damn you, Dick* and God 
blast you, Jimmy and ( Hell take you, Ned/ and 
you may know who they are." 

Once, riding a horse that was not too easy to 
hold, and a good hundred yards behind John Wat 
son, I saw him come to a gap in a hedge, growing, 



JOHN WATSON 125 

as all Meath hedges grow, on the brink of a good 
ditch ; and I supposed he was going to take it at a 
gallop, but he checked and took it slowly, and by 
the time he jumped I was nearly on top of him. 
I said nothing, for the enormity was too great for 
explanation. And for once he said almost nothing. 
He had a kind heart in him, and I was very young, 
and his forbearance was very likely due to pure 
kindness. But I thought at the time that he was 
so astonished that he, of all men, should be jostled 
by anybody, that his mighty flow of words deserted 
him utterly. What he did say I remember to this 
day, after more than thirty years : his exact words 
were : "Well! Well!" 

To tell of those days when John Watson was 
hunting the Meath would, I think, be to write the 
history of the Golden Age in Ireland. Is that be 
cause the cattle trade was still flourishing then? Or 
because during some of those years Lord Dudley 
ruled, an open-handed sportsman, remembered 
yet? Or because the Wyndham Act had satisfied 
Irish tenants? Or because Dublin was still a city 
with something of an air, and a thriving trade? 
Or was it because I was young? Can the impartial 
historian s conclusions ever, I wonder, be sifted 
and separated from his own personal views, and 
from all the little things by which they were 
formed? One cannot be sure. I had better ask 
somebody else. So of almost the first man I met in 



126 MY IRELAND 

a field, as I was coming up from a bog next day, 
where I had been shooting snipe, I inquired of this 
very thing. 

"It s a fine day," I said. 

"It is, glory be to God," said he. 

"A fine soft day," I said. 

"It is, sure," he answered. 

"Do you remember the days," I asked, "when 
Mr. John Watson was hunting the Meath, and 
Lord Dudley was Lord-Lieutenant?" 

"I do indeed," he answered. "Sure, who d ever 
forget them?" 

"We ve had a lot of changes since then," said I 
without committing myself. 

"Ah, God be with the old days," he said. 

I see that I have not been able to write anything 
to show, to those that did not know him, the per 
sonality of John Watson. His ghost will not walk 
In these pages, nor has he a place in history; but in 
the minds of many hunting-men he lives on still, 
a giant among their memories; and there are old 
sportsmen sleeping in chairs at their firesides who, 
if you shouted to them, "John Watson wants to 
know what the hell you are doing there," would 
hastily back their chairs away from the fire as they 
waked. 



i 



XIII 

The State of the Moon 



HAD not intended to say anything of astronomy ; 
but Irishmen watch the heavens as well as other 
people, and only the other day in a letter from a 
friend I read a tale of the moon that sufficiently 
interested me for me to hope that it might interest 
my readers also. There may be scientists in Eng 
land who will disagree with the lunar investiga 
tions told of therein and they have every right to 
do so ; only let them not state that they know more 
about such matters than Irishmen do, for that sort 
of thing does not go down in Ireland. The letter 
was from a lady, recording a talk between a man 
unnamed,, and a workman on the shore of the mouth 
of a river. "Well, Tom," said this man, "how is 
the country going on?" 

"The country!" said Tom. "Is it that you re 
asking me, your Honor? What way could it be 
going, with all the salaried Inspectors walking 
around the roads with their boots polished and a 
gold pen sticking out of their pockets and the day s 
newspaper in the hand reading about the danno 

fighting and the killing and all the murdering they 

127 



128 MY IRELAND 

do be doing In foreign parts, and not a day s work 
to trouble them? 

"Sure the country s capsized with their likes, 
and don t you well know it yourself, sir. Sure the 
poor old moon can t do her work no longer. Look 
the way the tides be, that weak no stir in them at 
all I Sure she s dying like the rest of us. She was 
great in her day! Swinging the tides up the river, 
and the fishes lepping to be up first But these new 
rules and regulations and the likes, have sickened 
the life out of her. Poor old moon, I feel sorry 
for her. For she knows the country s capsized, and 
she s dying." 

I repeat this conversation, verbatim as I received 
it, only for its astronomical value. I mean no 
criticism of any government officials; for I believe 
that Tom would never have minded them walking 
along the roads, or having their boots polished, or 
possessing gold pens, if only they had not been 
reading about murder in foreign parts; and it was 
unjust of him to grudge them this little luxury 
which cost no tax-payer anything. And I make 
no comment on the effect of politics on the moon, 
because a faith in the power of politics has been 
until recently, and may be still, a faith much cher 
ished in Ireland; and to deny its power for evil 
might be to deny its power for good, and I should 
not like to do this while anyone In Ireland still 
held to the old belief. 



THE STATE OF THE MOON 129 

I was writing in the last chapter of a great per 
sonality, and I mentioned that personality in Ire 
land is not confined to any class. I should think 
that Tom of the river-mouth, with his wide obser 
vation of heaven and earth, and his abundant power 
of expression, was one of these personalities; but I 
cannot say, for I never knew him. I have had the 
good fortune, however, to know many such, some 
for a lifetime or the best part of it, others for 
moments as we passed on a road and exchanged 
greetings or fragments of philosophy or fancy. 
I knew once a man that was known as the King of 
the Wreckers, who lived in the middle of Meath 
and was supposed to hold some sort of authority 
over all whose avocation was to help men and 
horses fallen in ditches while following the Meath 
Hounds or the Ward. Others would greet one 
with the words : "Do you remember the day when 
I found you in the big ditch over beyont Lagore? 
Begob, your bay horse would be in it yet but for 



me." 



It wasn t true, but they got a shilling. 

But the King of the Wreckers seldom spoke: 
there was a great calm about him, and you felt that 
even half a crown was barely sufficient for the 
price of a drink, when he was the man that would 
drink it. And there was no reason for giving him 
any money at all, yet you felt it was due to him ; 



130 MY IRELAND 

that feeling was part of the aura that shone from 
his personality. 

And there was a man who cost me much more 
than the King of the Wreckers, for he used to seek 
me out, while the other I only met at meets that 
were within a comfortable walk of his main ad 
dress. He would come to my door and say how 
well I was looking, and I would give him a shilling 
or two; and he would grow very confidential and 
speak in a rather low voice, but full of intensity, 
and say to me: "I will tell you how it is. It s like 
this. Listen now, and Fll tell you. This is the way 
it is." And then with emphasis all threaded with 
mystery: "Two shillings would be no good to me." 

"No," I would say. "I see." 

And he would shake his head over it, seeming to 
ponder as he shook it, upon the wisdom and truth 
of what he had uttered. His right to be helped 
was so taken for granted , and his statement that 
two shillings would be no help was so earnestly 
made, that I really used to feel glad if I could get 
out of it for less than ten shillings. He is gone now, 
and my purse is the better for his going; but I feel 
that the neighborhood is poorer for the loss of 
something that I cannot define, and will therefore 
write of no more. 

And now, as I pause to remember what other 
personalities I have known, it occurs to me sud 
denly that they are all personalities; all of them, 



THE STATE OF THE MOON 131 

that is to say, looking at life from their own point 
of view and expressing what they see in their own 
way; and it is that that enriches their talk -with 
poetry, fancy and wit, and even wisdom, and that 
that makes them impossible to govern. A nation 
needs such people, a few dozen of them, to run its 
arts and see its visions, and even sometimes to lead 
the rest; but, when it comes to government, the 
fewer there are with a taste for making their own 
laws, the easier will government be. And this 
thought leads me to digress for a moment from Ire 
land, out to the larger world, and to remark that 
the whole art of good government is to strike the 
best balance between the authority of the Crown 
and the liberty of the individual. If the balance 
swing too far towards authority, everyone is apt to 
be uncomfortable : if it swing too far away from it, 
a good many are likely to be starved or slaughtered. 
But let us return to Ireland to search for person 
alities, which will be an easy task once we have 
recognized that nearly every Irish man and woman 
is dowered with this possession. It is not the 
spread of knowledge that stifles personality, but the 
organization that spreads it; so that, if you were to 
ask the opinion of a wayfarer about anything met 
by the road, in any country where knowledge was 
properly organized, you would be likely to get the 
same opinion as your own and expressed in your 
own phrases. In Ireland you would get a new 



132 MY IRELAND 

opinion. You may say that It would not be as good 
as yours: but that Is not quite the point; the point 
is variety. If you gazed intently at a drop of dew 
without moving you might know that the light in 
it was red or green; and yet if, in spite of your 
knowledge, you asked someone standing beside you, 
he might tell you that it was violet It is good to 
look at the world in the same way, helped by other 
views of it from other angles. 

What examples shall I instance? Here is one. 
Once at the edge of a bog on a cold winter^ day I 
offered a man with whom I had got into conversa 
tion some whisky in a tumbler, that I had brought 
in my car for just such a need as his on such a day; 
and it happened to be pre-war whisky, or at any 
rate rather good. How should one express one s 
respect for fairly good whisky? In many lands such 
things, no doubt, are all laid down by custom. But 
this Irishman expressed his respect for this whisky 
in his own particular way* At the first sip he went 
down on his knees, and remained kneeling until 
he had emptied the tumbler. 

It is a curious thing, personality: it so flavors all 
a man s acts, that you can trace him by any one of 
them, almost as you can by his handwriting. I met 
an Instance of that only recently: I was talking to 
an American about a man I had known when he 
lived in Ireland, though he was not Irish by birth, 
and I mentioned the man s name. a l knew a man 



THE STATE OF THE MOON 133 

of that name in New York," said my American 
friend, "he used to paint and play the flute. I won 
der if he was the same man." 

"I don t think he ever painted," I said; "and I 
never heard him play the flute. I don t think it 
could have been him." 

"And he brought a cow to the hotel in which he 
was staying. He wanted to take it up to his room 
in the lift." 

"A cow in a lift!" I said. "The very man! It 
must have been him." 

And really I don t know now what made me so 
sure. But I was sure. I felt that no other man 
would want to put a cow in a lift ; and that it was 
just what this man would have done. Though I 
had never seen him with a cow. 

I suppose personality is what makes one man 
different from the next, as a goat is different from 
a herd of a thousand sheep. 

I wrote the last chapter or so of this in England, 
and now I am back in Ireland again, and winter is 
hovering. Bleak and raw and cold as the dawn 
can be, coming up over Kingstown, it is always 
pleasant to arrive in Ireland. There is a certain 
softness in the air, even in winter, as though the 
air were robed in a delicate dress made out of 
threads of rain and a myriad dewdrops, woven 
together by magic. There is a magic too in the 
people and the kindly welcome. Oh, the grace 



i 3 4 MY IRELAND 

with which two porters received their sixpence 
each for wishing me good morning. I did not see 
at the time, and I scarcely see now, that they had 
done nothing for me or the morning : I only noticed 
that they took their trifling pay with no ungenerous 
suggestion or hint whatever that it was in the least 
inadequate. Through the almost silent town and 
through Dublin we drove, and all the houses were 
awaking from sleep ; only the gulls, on our right, 
were already awake. I like to see houses waking ; 
by day they are merely houses ; but, just emerging 
from the mystery of night, all flashing with dawn 
that only they seem to see, and twinkling within 
with one candle, like an old man over a thought, 
they seem to stand just halfway between things that 
we think we know, and the mysteries that night 
shares with inanimate things. Thin plumes go up 
from their chimneys into the sky, and soon they 
are all awake, and the light grows bright till the 
mystery is very nearly gone. We have come from 
London at the end of November, when the great 
city sits brooding under her ancient cloak, which 
is fog, and not much sunlight will disturb her aged 
thoughts for another month or so. But the country 
is all bright in November, and to that brightness is 
added a flash from the few remaining leaves, and 
one looks out of the windows of the car eager for 
some of the sights that the country has to show, and 
which one has not seen for awhile. Unfortunately 



THE STATE OF THE MOON 135 

that same fog has reached a bit wider than usual 
and lies white all over these islands, in addition to 
which a frost is turning it into two sheets of ice as 
it touches the two front windows of our can 

When one comes to a railway one deduces by 
those methods with which Sherlock Holmes was 
wont to astonish Watson that a train has passed that 
way, for smoke floats heavily for as far as one can 
see ; but how long ago it was that the train went by 
is more than one can tell, for all smoke that goes 
into the air today, and even the breath of cattle, lie 
in the air like ghosts that nothing is able to exorcise. 
And so one comes home with familiar landmarks 
leaping out of the mist, and with nothing at all in 
between, A priest walks slowly to his parochial 
house from saying early mass and no one else as 
yet seems to be about at all, except such as have 
business with cattle and are walking slowly towards 
Dublin. Soon we were welcomed by hundreds of 
banners waving behind a wide smile : all the ban 
ners were the tail of one dog, and the smile was 
warm and wet and full of ivory. We were back 
again, and I have no further need of letters such as 
I quoted earlier in this chapter, as material for this 
book; for now I can get all such comments upon 
earth or moon as I may require, from the people 
living all round me. 



XIV 

Swans 

JL HERE was good news for me when I got back, 
news of the discovery of a red bog of which I did 
not know, about fifteen miles from here, where the 
owners would hospitably allow me to shoot. And 
news of a new red bog was particularly welcome 
to me, for the moon is nearing its full, and all who 
follow the avocation of snipe-shooting look at that 
time to the red bogs. London without cats would 
be far less unlike the London that is, than an Ire 
land without snipe would be unlike the Ireland we 
know. And in this Ireland a tide of snipe goes 
backwards and forwards, drawn by the moon, in 
visibly, probably by night, from the red bogs, 
which is where the heather grows upon deep 
morass, to the black bogs where there are rushes. 
When the moon is full the snipe go to the red 
bogs, and few are left at the bottoms of valleys or 
by marshy edges of fields; and when the moon 
dominates the night no longer, back they go to the 
other marshes, to the lands that are called the black 
bogs, which though sometimes very deep are never 
of peat. They say that the moon lures up a worm 
In the red bogs, and that these worms come to the 

136 



SWANS 137 

surface to gaze on the full moon, and that all the 
snipe go to find them. Those of us who ever make 
far journeys, and those who read of travel in which 
there is any romance or adventure, are probably 
inclined to be so dazzled by the doings of man that 
they overlook that his most adventurous journeys 
are equaled by all kinds of animals. This pilgrim 
age of the snipe to the red bog, by night, at the fall 
of the moon, has always seemed to me a mysterious 
event You go to the marshes where they have 
been for a. month, and find scarcely any there ; and 
no one has seen them go. 

If the frost lasts there will be no snipe on any 
red bog, for the surface will be like rock, and their 
bills will be unable to pierce it. We must look 
instead by the streams. And this I did, but not 
very energetically, for sleep on the train cannot 
always be counted on, and in St. George s Channel 
the boat seemed troubled by fog, and the mournful 
note of her foghorn was rather disturbing to sleep. 
That night, looking out after dinner, I saw clouds 
piled high and keeping the earth warm, and the 
wind had changed, so that I had the feeling that 
the white frost on the grass would be gone by 
morning. 

Gone sure enough it had, and I was soon back 
to the familiar marshes again. The snipe had re 
turned, though not yet in great numbers: there 
were only five on the first small bog that I came to, 



138 MY IRELAND 

and by a great piece of good luck I got them all. 
Then further afield, and on the way back, while 
waiting for snipe to be driven across a lane, I had 
the luck to meet an old fellow called Hurricane 
Jim, though I never knew how it was that he came 
by his name. And, after a brief talk about snipe, 
he generously advised me to go and look for them 
on land that belonged to neither of us. I shall not 
go, but I thanked him, for his interest in sport was 
genuine, as well as his intention to help me. I 
asked him before we parted if the golden plover 
were in, for he walks the roads a great deal and 
would have been sure to know. But he thought I 
meant the green plover. They come together, or 
about the same time, though the golden plover 
leave earlier than the green; so his information was 
useful to me. 

"They are not in it," he said. "They are late this 
year. I don t know what has happened them. And 
I am lonesome without their calling." 

On the way home we came on a string of hay- 
carts, that many a motorist would have cursed, for 
only the foremost one had a man looking after it; 
yet it was part of the life of Ireland, if one was not 
in too much of a hurry to notice it, hay cut far 
away near the larger bogs on the western side of 
the county, on their way to the Dublin market 
Those men from the edge of the bogs would sleep 
that night at Clonee, having done over twenty 



SWANS 139 

miles, and with eight more miles to go. Early 
next morning they would be in Dublin, about the 
time that townsmen awake. 

Another day came, and the grass was all white ; 
for the frost was back, just when I wanted it least 
It is one day before the full moon, and I had meant 
to shoot the new red bog, but the frost is there 
instead. A little later, and the bird that Ireland 
knows so well, the woodcock, would be in the 
coverts sheltering from the cold ; but their passage 
is only booked for tomorrow night, if lore that is 
handed down the ages from mouth to mouth may 
be trusted, and I know not what else to trust when 
inquiring of ancient things like the flight of the 
woodcock. So it is no use beating the coverts for 
the two or three home-bred birds that one might 
find in them now. And they are better where they 
are. For if you were thinking of taking a house, 
and saw one in which no one lived, not even a care 
taker, there would be something about it that 
would never attract you, as would a house that is 
properly cared for. It is probably the same with 
the woodcock, and they are likelier to come to a 
wood in which one or two of them are, than to what 
must look to a woodcock a homeless wood. 

The only place that I could think of for any sport 
today was a reach of the Boyne above Trim ; and 
there I went, and it looked as if the snipe had gone 
to the red bog after all, for I only got just enough 



140 MY IRELAND 

for dinner. It may be worth while recording a 
very simple aid to securing snipe when shooting 
along a river ; but simple things are very often the 
best things, and can be overlooked. The simple 
device I speak of is to have a handful of stones in 
one s pocket, for a snipe is a small object in the 
water, and, if one s dog does not see it at once, 
the current may very soon carry the snipe away. 
One had best take round stones, avoiding angular 
ones and flat ones, the angular ones because they 
might cut holes in one s pocket, and the flat ones 
because they may go sailing away through the air 
and fall nowhere near the snipe. Any object 
thrown on land would only confuse a retriever, 
and so would a stick in the river; but a stone sinks 
as it marks the spot, and the dog goes straight for 
the splash, and if one has thrown straight and 
allowed a bit for the current, that should bring 
him near enough to the snipe for him to do the rest 
for himself. A teal is a far harder job, unless it is 
quite dead; and a winged teal, once in the water, 
is not much easier for the dog to get than a fish. 
Only one of my snipe on this occasion dropped in 
the water, and was easily gathered, as well as those 
that dropped on the dry land. I always take a 
towel in the motor with me on these occasions, and 
a complete change of clothes ; the first for the dog 
when he has been in a river, and the second in case 
I should make an injudicious step in a bog. 



SWANS 141 

It is a good thing to have no exceptions about 
the spare suit of clothes, even when one is going to 
the most innocent marshes, and then whenever the 
soil that floats on water gives way and lets one 
through, it will not be on a day when somebody 
thought that one could not possibly need a change 
of clothes today. Were it not for this precaution 
there might be some professional walker of the 
roads tramping them now in breeches splendid 
with darnings of different colored wools: as it is, 
I keep them for myself. And vqry welcome they 
are, on the rare occasions when I get in over my 
knees. The habit of carrying this old suit in the 
car whenever I go shooting I have had for about 
thirty years, since the time when I needed it unex 
pectedly and had to borrow another man s at the 
first cottage I came to. 

It was a small and innocent-looking bog, but a 
good many tufts of heather might have warned me 
that it had once been a red bog that had all been 
cut away for fuel. The cuttings were old, and long 
overgrown, though not long enough overgrown to 
hold my weight, and I went to my neck with the 
suddenness of the cessation of music when they are 
playing musical chairs. My request for a change 
of clothes when I got to the cottage was immedi 
ately granted, but was thought to be inadequate, 
and I was pressed to have whisky too, the argu 
ment being that "it had saved many a life." I 



i 4 2 MY IRELAND 

drank the whisky and was the better for it, though 
the remark of my hospitable neighbor set up a 
train of thought as to the relative numbers that 
whisky had saved and killed. I do not know what 
I was doing on the bog on that day at all, for I 
remember that there was a thin film of ice on the 
moss and the water, so that there cannot have been 
many snipe there; but I was younger and less ex 
perienced and more hopeful then. 

The cold and the northerly trend of the faint un 
certain wind, and everything that spoiled my snipe- 
shooting today have driven southwards the green 
plover at last, and the golden plover with them; 
for I saw a few of both in the fields today : and once 
or twice a small black cloud went swiftly over the 
lower part of the sky, which was the golden plover 
traveling. Any night now the geese may come into 
the country, and even that queer but unmistakable 
note of musical wings may be heard, as a pair of 
swans go over. Some fiercer rigor, far north, has 
come into the mood of Winter, and the golden 
plover upon those pointed and rapid wings have 
brought us the first news of it. By walls where the 
fields end, and in cottages out amongst them, the 
news that the birds bring is interpreted, more 
keenly than ever it is in the great cities, more keenly 
if not so accurately as where they are wont to rely 
on the announcements of science; but working out 
for oneself information that one has had at first 



SWANS 143 

hand from nature, as though Dame Nature herself 
had brought the news to one s doors, is a pleasanter 
thing, surely, than reading any announcement. If 
anyone says it is not, I should like to see someone 
else blurting out the whole of the crossword on 
which the first man is working, and to note whether 
the bald statement amuse him at all. 

And better than reading the weather forecast in 
print, and almost as good as trying to work it out 
for oneself, is to consult some wise old man whose 
wisdom is never from books and rarely finds its 
way into them ; for there is a certain savor to news 
which one gets that way that is scarce to be found 
in print The news of the coming storms, or what 
ever it be, may be mixed up with folklore, such as 
prophecies founded on berries, and it may be even 
tainted with legend or magic; but even gold is 
rarely found raw, unmixed with other fragments 
of Mother Earth ; nor is it impossible to strain the 
gold out of quartz, or ample truth out of legend. 
Swans are spared in Ireland by every man with a 
gun, on account of their beauty ; but I do not think 
that in every case the sense of the swan s beauty is 
pure in the man s mind, unalloyed by legend, and 
some remembrance of the Children of Lir or other 
heroes that had the misfortune of being turned 
into swans by magic may reach from myth right 
through history, down the ages, to secure mercy for 
swans. 



i 4 4 MY IRELAND 

Perhaps for the benefit of those that do not know 
Ireland I should explain how it was that Lir s 
children came to be swans. The Children of Lir 
were three sons and a daughter, and Lir was a king, 
or would have been but for Bov the Red who had 
been proclaimed lawful King of Ireland ; but Lir 
did not set much store by that So Lir lived in 
rebellion awhile. But eventually he married Bov s 
daughter Eva, and the three sons and the daughter 
were their children. Then Eva died, and Lir 
married again, another daughter of Bov the Red. 
And this daughter, whose name was Aoife, was 
fond of her sister s children, but turned after a 
while into the ordinary stepmother of legend. 
Growing tired of her stepchildren she turned them 
into swans by magic, much practised by all her 
people, the de Danaans. It was on Lough Der- 
ravaragh that she did it, having first of all told the 
children to swim in the lake and then working the 
witchcraft on them. 

The four swans, which they instantly became, 
remonstrated with Aoife and asked her at least to 
decree some end to her spell. This she agreed to 
do, and sentenced them to three hundred years as 
swans upon Derravaragh, and three hundred years 
in the Straits of Moyle between Ireland and Scot 
land, and three hundred years in the seas by Erris 
and Inishglory, after which the enchantment would 
end. Then, as an Irishman selling a horse gives 



SWANS 145 

back something when the bargain is* over, she 
allowed them to keep their human speech and to 
sing sad and unequaled music, and to keep their 
human minds. 

It was not very wise of her, for, of course, they 
gave her away to Lir, who told it to Bov the Red, 
who could do magic himself as well as any of 
them, and smote Aoife with a wand of the druids, 
who flew shrieking from the hall and became a 
Demon of the Air, and is one still. "All the high 
sorrows of the world" were in the music of the 
Children of Lir; and three hundred years went by, 
and Bov the Red and Lir were still hale and hearty, 
and the time came for the swans to leave Lough 
Derravaragh. It was then that they came, as they 
were bound by the magic to come, to the Straits 
of Moyle, and there they fared ill in bitter nights 
of January and outlived many storms, while Lir 
and all the de Danaans were holding the Festival 
of the Age of Youth, which meant that by magical 
means they were escaping old age and trouble. 
And the de Danaans knew that the Children would 
be freed from the magical curse "in the end of 



time." 



And there came the end of the second three hun 
dred years, and the four swans rose and went from 
the tides of Moyle and, leaving behind them the 
cold of that stormy sea, they flew to Inishglory. 
And there they dwelt for a while. But when the 



146 MY IRELAND 

end of time came, or at any rate the end of nine 
hundred years, they arose from Inishglory and flew 
to find the palace of their father, which was on the 
Hill of the White Field. But they found it deso 
late and thorny, with nothing but green mounds 
showing where the palace and halls had been, and 
nettles growing thick over the mounds. It must 
have looked very much to them as Tara looks to us. 
And then they knew that "the old times and things 
had passed away in Erin, and they were lonely in 
a land of strangers." For they did not know that 
Lir and all the de Danaans dwelt on invisible in 
the fairy mounds. 

They had not yet taken human shape again ; but 
one of St. Patrick s men named St. Mochaovog 
came to the land of Inishglory, and began to say 
matins and to ring his bell. The bell frightened 
the swans at first, but soon they realized that the 
bell was a holy bell, and that it should deliver 
them. And the end of it was that one day their 
feathers fell off, and the three princes and the 
princess stood there shrunken and withered with 
age. And the princess said to St. Mochaovog: 
"Come and baptize us quickly, for the end is near." 

And Mochaovog baptized them, and soon they 
died, and were buried as Christians are ; but their 
graves, with one. in front of the princess and one 
on her left and right, seem rather to be placed on 
the lines of a flight of swans. 



SWANS 147 

Those who ask of a legend the hard and fast 
question, is it true or untrue, would probably miss 
a great deal that the ages have learned in Ireland 
about the migration of swans. Many a time I have 
seen inlets of the sea where the legend places 
Moyle, beautiful with white flocks of swans, and 
the feathers of them lying along the sand. People 
that watched their movements probably made this 
story, and only diverged from truth by trying to 
tell two stories at the same time, and mixing up 
natural history with the story of some woman who 
was jealous of her stepchildren some centuries 
before history shook itself free from legend and 
learned to look after itself. 

Lough Derravaragh lies under a small steep hill 
that I can see from any high part of my own land, 
and I know its actual shores, for it is near to the 
home of good friends of mine. So Derravaragh is 
actually there; but it has never emerged from 
legend, and probably never will ; for many legends 
cluster thickly about it. As I have mentioned it, 
I had better tell of its origin, which was this. The 
witch of Westmeath sent to the witch of Galway to 
borrow her lake, saying that she would send it back 
on Monday. So the witch of Galway rolled up her 
lake and sent it over the hills to Westmeath, and 
the witch of Westmeath unrolled it at Derrava 
ragh; the proof of all this being that there is a lake 
at Derravaragh, and a hole in Galway of the same 



i 4 8 MY IRELAND 

size and shape. But it did not end there; for the 
witch of Galway asked for her lake back, pointing 
out that the witch of Westmeath had promised to 
return it on Monday; but the witch of Westmeath 
had replied that she meant the Monday after 
eternity, or Monday-come-never. So the lake is 
still at Derravaragh, as anybody can see. 

And the legends that haunt it have not done 
haunting It yet; for there is a family to which 
Derravaragh is unlucky, and one day some of the 
members of it decided to go and row on its waters. 
Whether they knew or not of the evil influence of 
the waters of Derravaragh upon their family, their 
old dairymaid knew it, and all the people round, 
for it was one of those old families in which the 
Irish people take a great interest The dairymaid 
warned them, and then besought them not to go. 
But in the end they went, leaving her almost tear 
ful. It was a hot summer s day with thunder about, 
which may have added to the feeling of doom in 
the air which was felt by the dairymaid. And then 
they came back safe. Almost the first words that 
one of them said on returning were said to the old 
dairymaid : "You see nothing happened to us." 

But she looked at them full of knowledge of 
dooms they had overlooked : "No, but the cream 
turned," she said. 



XV 

A Bit of Philosophy Strays into the 
Wrong Book 

JL HE sun went down last night red and curious, 
turning the last of the leaves to pure gold, and call 
ing up huge wraiths of towering mist from all the 
low-lying country. And, as might have been feared 
from this, a frost came in the night; and today is 
the full of the moon, and the new red bog waiting. 
We decided to try it in spite of the frost, and on a 
bright clear day it was a fine sight to see. And 
this authentic Irish soil is a good thing to walk on, 
compared with pavements, which I have lately 
trod. And there is a welcome for most people 
beside Irish bogs, whereas in towns, where every 
body nowadays is dressed all alike, no one knows 
who the next man is, and they are inclined to sus 
pect and hate each other. This may seem a strong 
statement 

Let me therefore tell a ghastly story. In an 
Evening News of this month of November, 1936, 
I read a statement that had been made in court by 
a representative of a London railway company. 
"All who buy tickets," he said, "from our auto 
matic machines come under suspicion, and may be 

149 



150 MY IRELAND 

followed." This statement tallies with observa 
tions of my own. Thank God there are none of 
these damnable automatic machines round here. 

One advantage I must concede to pavement, and 
that is that there are no bog-holes in it. The bog 
that I went to today had been a good deal cut, and 
a small cutting covered with heather takes almost 
more watching than one can spare from the snipe. 
Bog-holes today were more numerous than snipe, 
and I got no more than about one snipe a mile, and 
found one bog-hole for myself, but luckily with 
only one leg, for the fall forward usually brings 
one on to a firm patch of heather. A frost having 
spoiled the bog, we turned homewards, getting a 
curlew on the way, and a few more snipe by the 
edge of a river. And tonight the mist has risen up 
into tall shapes under a gorgeous western sky, to 
prophesy more frost. And tomorrow is Sunday, 
when the weather will little concern me. I might 
have been seen this afternoon driving a cow slowly 
across a field, to which some golden plover had 
come. In spite of the name on the cover of this 
book, it was not my cow. The cow minded little, 
and its kind owner not at all. And as happens, as 
often as not, when in quest of golden plover, I did 
not get a shot, for they had moved to the next field ; 
and the curlew was the bird in the hand, and the 
golden plover escaped. The frost was very light; 
and, had it been any harder, the golden plover 



A BIT OF PHILOSOPHY 151 

would have been away to the sea. There are not 
very many in yet, and we shall want more storms 
in the north before more of them come. Bullocks 
may also be driven, to bring one within shot of 
golden plover, but driving a bullock for this pur 
pose is a very difficult job, for he is always trying 
to turn to the left and then to the right, in order to 
gallop back to the herd, or may start to gallop 
forward just at the wrong moment 

The moon is perfectly round, but is wearing a 
woolly halo that is suggestive of fog. If fog is 
lying over much of the world tonight there will 
be no flight of the woodcock, for such lore as I 
have been able to gather from my neighbors tells 
that birds never flight in fog. The frost is white 
on the grass again, so that the feet of rabbits, when 
one opens the door to look at it, can be heard a long 
way off, making more noise on the grass and the 
frozen leaves than a tiger does in his jungle. 
Snipe, golden plover and the full moon may seem 
trivial things to write about ; but then I am writing 
about a rural land, and sport is to the countryside 
what business is to the cities ; and though the fol 
lowing of either gets one far afield from one s 
starting point, yet one gets far farther with sport, 
for he who would put his wits against those of the 
wild creatures must know something of things that 
they know, and learn the way of the winds and the 
frost and the moon. But now there returns to my 



152 MY IRELAND 

mind a thing that I had momentarily forgotten; 
and that is that when I came in sight of the bog to 
day and looked out over all its colors, I saw a 
woman in a red dress coming out of it with a pail 
of water towards her cottage. That red dress in a 
bright morning added so much color to the bog that 
all artists would have delighted in it ; and, as it re 
mains a beautiful thing in my memory, I will pass 
it on, though dimly, to my readers. 

It is Sunday now, and fog and frost are gone ; 
and if the old saws be true, the woodcock crossed 
last night Henceforth, when the frost or snow 
comes to the bogs, I can turn to the woods to follow 
that occupation that was my principal interest 
before ever -I took to writing, and that the world 
for that matter followed long before Homer the 
pursuit of game. The running of tram-cars may 
be more interesting to some, or banking or buying 
or selling, but the rather queer title that stands at 
the top of these pages must debar the reader from 
these. And now it is Sunday, as I have said, and 
I have not even sport to tell of. I will tell instead 
of things inside the house. And first I will tell a 
tale told me today at lunch, for it illustrates very 
well the courtesies that there must be when two 
well-ordered camps are pitched side by side; not 
camps of hostile armies, for the two churches in 
Ireland are both Christian, but two corps stimu 
lated by rivalry and perhaps a little jealous of 



A BIT OF PHILOSOPHY 153 

each other. They will fight none the worse for 
that, side by side, when the trumpets call to Ar 
mageddon. But of the strategy of Armageddon I 
must say nothing, for that is the affair of holier 
folk than me. Well then, at a certain house, one of 
the most beautiful in this county, a clergyman of 
the Church of Ireland and a Roman Catholic priest 
were both of them guests at luncheon. Their 
hostess hesitated for a moment before deciding 
which of them she should ask to say grace. Rome 
won, with courtesy and with wit, though not with 
out a light shot fired at heresy ; for her priest turned 
to the other, a model, I may add, of perfect 
sobriety, saying: "You say grace before lunch, for 
I am quite sure you will not be able to say it after." 
The lady who told this story, which reached me 
today secondhand, is I hope an old enough friend 
not to grudge my bringing it thus to the eyes of 
some who may not know Ireland, for the sake of the 
light it may lend to them. Other stories, too, I 
heard today at lunch, but I will not repeat them, 
as I promised earlier in this book not to be telling 
Irish stories, unless with good reason; for that is 
too easily done, and one may easily drift into tell 
ing tales that are merely amusing, without as it 
were focusing the light of their humor on some 
particular trait of the Irish character, or condition 
of Irish life. Nor am I going to give an inventory 
of my house, though I remain within its walls 



154 MY IRELAND 

nearly all Sunday; but one thing caught my eye to 
day, preserved here in Ireland from ages whose 
wisdom this age has forgotten, and its lesson is such 
a good one that I will tell of it. It is a piece of 
carved wood to hold a barometer, and the carving 
shows Diana standing under a tree, with stags and 
boars and hares at her feet, a spear in her hand and 
her horn at her side and the ends of her arrows 
showing; an appropriate ornament for a case to 
hold a barometer. But that is not the lesson : the 
lesson is that the barometer is turned to the wall, 
and Diana is outwards. If you want to see the ba 
rometer, you turn round the carved lady of myth 
and look at the mercury. All the barometers and 
thermometers that the present age possesses hang 
with their faces outwards; and those faces add 
nothing to the pleasantness of our outlook, noth 
ing to the beauty of the world. The first thing that 
the earlier ages did was to set up walls and roof, 
as shelters against the rain, and the second was to 
soften what was ruggedest in the world in which 
men had to dwell, and to give the dreams and 
fancies of men dominion over the harsher and 
cruder things. You could see at a glance in those 
days that man held an important place on the earth. 
But now you would rather say that steel was the 
more important. Steel is shaped by man no doubt, 
but not to his dreams : man has only served steel as 
a slave. And so we have machinery pushing for- 



A BIT OF PHILOSOPHY 155 

ward everywhere to a foremost place in the world, 
and the dreams and fancies of man are far behind. 
Ask a hundred people of the relative importance 
of a great machine or a work of art, and you will 
discover that most them put the machine first. The 
arts are made of human emotions ; God knows what 
the machine is made of. Utility comes first every 
where. But what is utility, but an end that can be 
seen by even the most shortsighted? All the great 
ends lie further. And where is utility leading us? 
The answer to the question wholly depends on how 
well machinery serves man, or whether machinery 
serves man at all ; whether it is friendly, neutral or 
hostile, or whether man merely serves the machine. 
Thus I philosophize, being idle, because it is Sun 
day and I have nothing to shoot. 



XVI 

Snipe 

JlT is Sunday night, and the wind has changed ; a 
matter that may seem too trivial to record ; and yet 
the southwest wind which has come has brought 
back the Ireland that we all know best. It is our 
national wind, the wind that has made the Irish 
grass and the Irish character, that brings the moss 
on the southwest side of trees and bends the heads 
of all thorns, that are not well sheltered, over to 
the northeast And with the southwest wind the 
frost is gone, and the soft air come back, and cloudy 
skies; and rooms at the back of the house are no 
longer scented with wood-smoke drifting in with 
fog from gardens that lie to the north of us. To 
morrow should be a day to suit a trip to the red 
bog at last. 

Tomorrow has come and the wind is still in the 
southwest, and the red bogs are all soft and their 
mosses waiting for snipe. I went to the new red 
bog again, and walked a good deal and got nine 
snipe, perhaps two a mile this time ; but the frost, 
as my gamekeeper puts it, has spoiled the moon. 
A good many snipe returned last night to the red 
bogs, but while they should have been going there 

156 



SNIPE 157 

they were frozen out, so that some are on the red 
bogs and some are on the black, and nowhere Is 
a big bag very likely to be made this full moon. 
But it was pleasant to be walking a bog again, even 
a difficult one, and this one has many little square 
holes cut in it by people who seem once to have 
taken from it a single barrowload of turf and never 
to have come back to dig at the same spot again. 
I often wonder how it is that one watches for snipe 
getting up on a bog, about forty yards ahead, and 
at the same time watches for a good foothold for 
each step. As I never remember how one does it, 
I cannot pass on the information to my reader. All 
one can say is that when one has time to spare to 
look at the ground one should avoid all bright 
mosses, while heather is always good to hold one, 
but should be watched to see that the spreading 
tops of it do not conceal a hole. In addition to 
little diggings for turf there are the hare-holes to 
be avoided; for while, perhaps a thousand years 
ago, men were digging pits for elephants in Africa, 
a similar school of thought was devising the same 
sort of method in Irish bogs for catching a hare. 
And a trap that is too subtle for such intelligence 
as is possessed by a hare is far too subtle for the 
average man. 

It is a curious thing, but I know no large bog 
in this county that has not a small steep hill at one 
side of it, as though it were designed for watching 



158 MY IRELAND 

the bog and seeing who might try to come across it, 
and, in the only exception I know, one has been 
built, that is to say a rath. It has been built by the 
side of the one road crossing the bog, which goes 
over the narrowest part of it and is probably as old 
as the rath. It must have been a fine position for 
an encampment, for whoever held it must have 
been safe from any attack from half the landscape, 
so long as one man watched whatever pass there 
was over the bog. As much history lies in these 
bogs as is in books, if one has the luck to find it; for 
every kind of implement that men ever handled in 
Ireland has sunk at one time or another into the 
bogs, and every now and then men digging for turf 
find the bronze heads of spears, and sometimes even 
gold. They are strangely preservative, these bogs, 
and men that have fallen into them have been 
found, clothes and all, as well preserved as the 
mummies of the Egyptians. Here also men used 
to bury kegs of butter in order to keep them fresh, 
or butter in earthenware jars; and I think that 
some glimpse of the yellow treasure, or some story 
of it that changed as it was passed on and on, may 
be the origin of the faith throughout Ireland that 
little men buried crocks of gold in the* bog or at 
the roots of thorn trees. 

Should my reader wish to look for one, the place 
to search for it is where a rainbow touches the 
earth. Thorn trees, I may say, are particularly 



SNIPE 159 

sacred to everything that is pre-Christian, and to 
this day there are few men who would willingly 
cut a lone thorn on a, hill or out in a field, or one 
showing by any queer twist of gnarled branches, 
or grayness of age, that it is likely to be sacred to 
those who were great in their day, before St. 
Patrick came to trouble them, and who might not 
quite be trusted to have lost their power yet. Any 
way it is felt that it is better to leave such thorns 
alone, for a great many things may happen that 
you might not be able to be sure of, and maybe 
there are things in the world that we don t all of 
us know yet. And so in the middle of a plowed 
field, with the furrows twisting round it, or in any 
other unlikely place, old thorns may be seen stand 
ing; and, if any English traveler ask the reason 
of it, he will be given as many reasons as courtesy 
demands, and then a few more to spare, but not 
the right one. I heard a story only today of a 
farmer who was cutting one of these thorns ; and 
he had no faith in the Shee or any of the little 
people; and the thorn tree fell suddenly and jabbed 
a thorn through his hand as it fell; and the man 
who told me the tale did not pretend to be able to 
account for it The force of gravity is one thing 
to be considered. But it may well be argued, 
"What cause would the force of gravity have to 
harbor a grudge against any man? Whereas the 
Shee . . ." But there is no saying what the Shee 



160 MY IRELAND 

might or might not do, if you went out of your 
way to injure one of their thorns; so thorns and 
Shee and all such things might be better left alone. 
Aye, that might be better for a man in the end. 

Coming away from the bog I saw a windy thorn 
on a hill, standing alone where once men probably 
camped and watched the bog to see that no enemy 
crossed it. It leans to the northeast, where an age- 
old wind has bent it, and is not the sort of tree that 
anyone would venture to cut down. It has a wild 
look standing there, and wilder still seen from the 
bog; and, if the mind of whoever sees it be soaked 
in ancient legends, its gnarled trunk and clawing 
branches are just what they would expect As a 
matter of fact a great deal of gold has been found 
just under its branches; found by some men and 
lost by others, for it is just above the point where 
the winning-post used to stand some years ago when 
the Meath used to hold its point-to-points there. 
So, many men have done the work of leprechauns 
under that thorn, putting down gold for others to 
find. Belief in the leprechaun is dwindling in 
Ireland now, though not the fond fancy that 
believed in him; that tends to be transferred to 
sweepstakes and politicians. Politicians do good 
to the country in lots of ways ; and one of these days 
I am going out to look for that good, where a rain 
bow touches the ground. 

Tuesday has come, and the wind still blows suit- 



SNIPE 161 

ably for snipe, though it has wavered a bit from 
the point from which our Irish climate comes, and 
is a little too much in the west and not quite to be 
trusted not to bring bad weather. I motored past 
Trim, with its towers and spire and steeple stand 
ing up bright in clear sunshine, and came to a red 
bog, on which I hoped still to find snipe three days 
after the full moon. I walked the whole length 
of it, half of it high bog covered with heather, and 
half of it a plain, ten feet lower, where most of the 
turf has been cut away; I don t know how many 
thousand tons of it. Heather still grows on this 
plain ; but on much of it red grass grows, and red 
mosses and bright green mosses. It was by these 
mosses I walked, where they went like long inlets 
of a lake amongst the heather, and at the other end 
of the bog I met my motor, which had been taken 
round to a road that ran by that side of the bog. 
We came back in the car, so as to have the wind 
behind us, and walked the bog again, and walked 
back over it this time to our original starting-point, 
though the wind was in our faces. 

For that contrary Irish bird is best approached 
down wind, as one hunts no other game ; the reason 
of this being that he prefers to fly up wind, so that 
when you come down wind on him he has to turn 
to get into the wind, and so gives you a crossing 
shot For several reasons a crossing shot is the 
easier, provided that you aim far enough in front 



162 MY IRELAND 

One of these reasons is that his more vulnerable 
parts are exposed, and another is that he shows 
white when turning, as he does not when going 
straight away, and this against the dark of the 
bog s surface is a consideration; and then again, 
when his flight takes the form of a right angle, he 
remains within shot longer than when he travels, 
at his sixty miles an hour or so, in a straight line. 
And lastly I walked across the width of the bog 
at the western end, the end that the wind was com 
ing from. Most of that part was also cut away and 
it was mainly bright-red mosses floating on soft 
deeps. Here and there the low black precipices 
of the original peat stood crowned with heather, 
above square pools of water in which green moss 
floated slimily. The little turf-stacks dotted that 
plain, and here and there some industrious worker 
had entirely protected his stack of turf from the 
rains of winter by clothing it with a light thatch 
of rushes. These looked in the distance like little 
houses of whoever might be wild enough to live 
in that wild land. There were not a great many 
snipe on the bog, for the lure of the moon seems 
weakening, but luck and my dog s nose favored 
me, and I got fifteen, 

My reader will know that a great many good 
racehorses come from the South of Ireland, but he 
may not know how they come. Nor do I, for that 
matter, for the method is recently changed ; but I 



SNIPE 163 

heard this morning how some of them came until 
lately. I am giving no man s secret away, for it 
was no longer a secret when it reached me, and 
indeed a southern Irish policeman was one of the 
links in the chain of gossip, although not the link 
with which I connected. My reader, who will 
have often observed the gloss that shines on a race 
horse, particularly when set off on a sunny day 
with bright colors in the saddle, will readily appre 
ciate how much a little paint and a lot of mud and 
a tinker s cart will help to disguise these animals. 
Yes, some of the horses seen stepping daintily at 
important race-meetings have drawn a tinker s cart 
over the border from the Irish Free State into 
Northern Ireland. The tinker would harness up 
with a very old horse, and go back for more. I 
wonder how they go into the North of Ireland 
now. 



i 



XVII 

Sitting for Duck 



N writing of My Ireland I have told of the south 
west wind and the soft Irish air, but have said 
nothing of the ether. Why should he? some may 
say. But does any man quite know his own coun 
try nowa-days? If singers with mandolins, or 
traveling bands of musicians came every night to 
one s door, in any land, and one were telling of 
such a land, one would surely mention that. To 
night I have been listening to Spanish airs, showing 
clearly old African origins : they came through the 
ether, and wireless remains to me the greatest won 
der in any land. What its influence will be on the 
minds of civilized man I cannot say, but Europe 
can no more be the same as it was without Marchese 
Marconi, than it can ignore Julius Caesar. It may 
become the enemy or the friend of ignorance ; that 
depends on how it is used. In the isolation of 
lonely valleys something is gained and something 
lost, as in the roar of cities also. Henceforth 
neither walls nor mountains stand at the back of 
concert-halls between the orchestra and the remot 
est people. One may write of Ireland, it may be 

thought, well enough without digressing to wire- 

164 



SITTING FOR DUCK 165 

less. But can one? Will old isolations remain the 
same? There are men in Ireland who never had 
heard Big Ben, who can hear it now any evening. 
And what effect will Big Ben have on them? I do 
not know. That is why I say that I cannot tell 
what the influence of wireless will be. Meanwhile 
the ether vibrates with it, and this mysterious 
power will dominate minds that barely know it as 
yet for a new plaything. Above the weather, 
between the earth and the stars, the voice of man, 
as mysterious as Northern Lights, goes wandering 
further than swallows. 

And now Wednesday has come, and the west 
wind still blowing, and I went to shoot some small 
bogs, some of them among the first that I ever shot 
snipe on, and holding snipe still, for the ways of 
the bogs change less than our ways, I began with 
one called Ballynamona, a long narrow marsh 
under a hill. A causeway has been laid across it, 
to carry the weight of a cart I remember once 
among the stones of this causeway finding the head 
of a gargoyle. I do not think there can ever have 
been a church in that marsh : more likely the stones 
were brought in carts from ruins far away, not that 
you need ever go very far in Ireland to meet with 
ruins. And then cartloads of stones were thrown 
down at the edge of the marsh, and further afield 
till they crossed it; and out of the heap of stones 
one day I found leering this old stone face. Light 



166 MY IRELAND 

rain came into the west wind, and Ballynamona 
was not holding well. I came next to the Black 
Cut, a bog in which it is not so easy to keep one s 
knees dry, but always good for snipe. And then I 
came to a place like a small pond, to which the 
earth had come shyly back. There may have been 
swans on it once, and lawns near it, and even a 
house. One never knows. It is certainly some 
thing that had been excavated deep, and the earth, 
that had covered the water, only uncertainly holds 
one s weight. I shot six small bogs in all, and then 
left them to the rain and came home with fifteen 
snipe. A herd of cattle passed us as we were hav 
ing lunch by the road, and another man looking at 
the drover as he passed said to me: "I d bet my 
life that man knows his way over the border." 

Long before this book is in print the drover will 
have been over the border or not, or I would not 
give him away; and, after all, the only evidence 
adduced for this illegal knowledge on the part of 
the drover was that he was "a sweet hearty cut of a 
fellow." 

One of these days I must remember to ask Old 
Mickey about the destruction of our cattle-trade 
in the South of Ireland, and see what he has to say 
of it 

I will mention another simple thing that may be 
of use to snipe-shooters, for though it is simple it 
comes in very handy, and that is to carry a ball or 



SITTING FOR DUCK 167 

two of paper rolled up in one s pocket, to throw 
down as a mark. It is better than throwing one s 
handkerchief into the bog, and one probably only 
has one of those. And in addition to a ball or two 
of paper it is a very good thing to have an old 
tennis ball, as one t can throw that further, and in 
any wind. But the tennis ball is likely to sink 
down among the rushes and be lost ; it is, therefore, 
a good thing to tie a piece of tape to it, at least 
a foot long, with a bunch of white paper at the end 
of the tape. These precautions are not so necessary 
when one only has one snipe down, but when one 
gets a right and left one wants to mark the first one 
as quickly as possible, and then get after the sec 
ond; while, if one gets another snipe or two on the 
way, it is very difficult to pick them all up without 
these marks. A dog cannot search the whole bog 
for one, especially as he may be often led astray 
by the scent of live snipe that have flown off. 
Sooner or later, too, that tempter of dogs the hare, 
may run across the bog, and, though no good re 
triever would dream of chasing it, the scent is 
strangely exciting. 

And now there is a certain monotony in the 
larder, which I hope to vary tomorrow when I go 
to- sit by a pond in a wood, to which my gamekeeper 
has lured a flight of ducks. To lure ducks to a 
pond is no easy work and the secrets of it are not 
for all men, so I will give away no more of the 



168 MY IRELAND 

process than to repeat what my gamekeeper told 
me he told a man who asked him of it. "Chop 
motor tires up very small," he said, "and boil them 
a long time; and there s nothing that ducks like 
better." Those are his own words, which I merely 
pass on without comment 

The night is very dark and damp, and there 
seems no fear, as I look at it after dinner, of frost 
coming to spoil the flight. 

Thursday has come, and I have had a hot lunch, 
instead of going to the larger snipe-bogs, for my 
designs today are chiefly against the ducks, though 
I visited a small marsh in the morning. When I 
returned I found a ballad-seller at the door, a man 
who walks the roads through the Irish weather, 
until one would think that some fragments of 
cyclones and anti-cyclones would be woven into his 
coat by now and be going round Ireland with him, 
and with him, too, go the Irish songs that he sells, 
printed on bits of green paper. I bought one for 
my readers; and the price would have been six 
pence, but that, as the ballad-seller pointed out, 
it was getting so near Christmas, and I shouldn t be 
seeing him again before that, or indeed before 
Fairyhouse races. His ballads, the old wanderer 
told me, were printed in Ireland, but composed in 
England, so that I suppose that mass-production 
has overtaken even these, and very much machine- 



SITTING FOR DUCK 169 

made they looked ; but the one I chose was Irish, 
written, I was assured when about to buy it, by 
the greatest ballad-writer in all Ireland. Here it 
is, with two of its misprints corrected and without 
the dirt in its folds. 

THE BARD OF ARMAGH 

Oh! list to the strains of the poor Irish harper, 
And scorn not the strings from his poor withered 
hand 

But remember his fingers oft moved faster, 
To raise up the memory of his dear native land. 

Twas long before the shamrock, our green isle s 

lovely emblem, 
Was crushed in its beauty neath the Saxon lion s 

paw, 

I was called by the colleens around me assembling, 
Their bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh. 

Ah, how I love to muse on the days of my boyhood, 
Tho fourscore and three years had flitted since 

then, 
Still it gives sweet reflection, as every young joy 

should 

For the merry-hearted boys make the best of old 
men. 

At fair or at wake I would twist my shillelagh, 
Or dance the fine jig with my brogues bound 
with straw 



MY IRELAND 

And all the pretty colleens in village and valley, 
Loved the bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of 
Armagh. 

Now tho I have wandered this wide world over, 
Yet Ireland is my home and a parent to me, 

Then oh let the turf that my old bones shall cover, 
Be cut from the ground that is trod by the free. 

And when Sergeant Death in his cold arms shall 

embrace me, 

To lull me to sleep with sweet Erin-go-Bragh 
By the side of my Kathleen my young wife Oh! 

lay me, 
Then forget Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh. 

It is quite a good wind that is blowing now, as I 
realize on looking up and seeing how few leaves 
are left on the oaks, which were shining all golden 
yesterday, and on the other trees none at all. The 
wind will suit well for shooting ducks, for the 
noise of it limits the distance at which the sound 
of shots may warn those on their way, and in such 
weather they seldom circle warily round, but come 
in "like arrows." It is half past three, and the 
light by now will be nearly gone in London, while 
here there seems a slight fading in the glow of the 
low clouds racing over the sky from the west, that 
reminds me it will soon be time to have tea and 
put on my boots and get started. 
And so I motored down to the edge of the wood 



SITTING FOR DUCK 171 

in which the pond lies, and got a pigeon that was 
just coming in, and walked down to the pond and 
made myself comfortable on a wooden bench in a 
"blind" made mainly of growing spruce, that were 
planted for that purpose. Finches were flying 
home when I came to the blind ; and soon the wood 
was ringing with some discussion of great impor 
tance to birds. The wind ran like a ghost over the 
water, whitening it as it went Clouds were so 
low and thick as they hurried by that one only saw 
the gaps in them moving, for through the gaps the 
lucent dome of the sky gave the only light by 
which to see clearly. Very soon the ducks came, 
and very soon the light went They came black 
against the sky, sliding down the air over the tips 
of the trees, and suddenly becoming invisible 
against the dark of the wood. And as they enter 
the dark of the trees they put their feet out and 
draw in their wings a little, and drop rather than 
fly, so that their pace is greatly altered just at the 
critical moment 

It is no longer a matter of aiming a long way in 
front; one aims instead a little way underneath. 
Nor is it a shot that one can practise every night, 
or ever in broad daylight When my right barrel 
was fired they would swoop over the surface of the 
pond and rise again over the trees ; and not till they 
were over the trees could I see them again, and so 
get a long shot with my left barrel. Soon the light 



172 MY IRELAND 

was quite gone, and I had got eleven. With two 
dogs we picked them up, and for the last two or 
three we used an acetylene lamp, but not till we 
had got all we could without it, for dogs work 
better without the glare. There is not far to go 
through the wood on the way home, but the lamp 
came in handy then, for, well though I think that 
I know the wood, it is very easy to lose oneself in 
it at night. Then we came to more ornamental 
trees, growing nearer the house : the wind in their 
branches was like a great voice. < There rose the 
rather pleasant sleepy smell of burning leaves, and 
a small red fire winked at us. Then lighted win 
dows in the night, and home to warm rooms and 
away from the splendor of the wind. 



XVIII 

Golden Plover 

EXT day a few more snipe, and then a menac 
ing look on the face of the sun, that gave all the 
west a thrill as it set over marshy country. And 
one had the feeling that the bright air threatened 
a change of weather, and that there might be on 
their way those storms and cold that give a point 
to the houses we build and a purpose to thatch and 
good fireplaces; for it is against wild weather that 
these things are designed. And next morning the 
prophetic look had gone out of the sky and the cold 
was already there and a wind from the west with 
a bite in it. We set out by car for a large bog that 
lies a few miles away, in a hollow of land that may 
once have been all a lake. And on the way we met 
the golden plover; not flocks of thirty or forty, 
such as I have seen recently, but many hundreds. 
They were massed in a field when we first saw 
them; and soon they were up, but did not go very 
far; and we planned a maneuver that almost 
worked too well, for the golden plover came over 
a hedge so close to me that my shot scarcely had 
time to spread. However, I got four, and they 
were in fine condition. And, as I was not very far 

173 



174 MY IRELAND 

from a village, the shooting provided for one or 
two people that sight of a bit of sport that is always 
welcome to Irishmen; for, although the Irishman s 
spirits should be sufficiently volatile to soar of their 
own accord, he does like the occasional stimulants 
of whisky, sport and politics. For choice he per 
haps prefers all these three things refined and puri 
fied from any alloy of law, as for instance when the 
whisky is poteen, brewed in a bog out of sight of 
the law s representatives and paying no duty to 
them. With the golden plover in the bag we 
motored on to the nearest point that a road went 
to the bog, and we walked down towards it against 
a west wind with fury in it, I regretting the good 
coat of sheepskins that I had left behind in the car, 
and that is made in the mountains along the north 
west frontier of India for just such weather as this. 
"There is the real smell of winter in it," said my 
gamekeeper. And sure enough there was. 

As we got near the bog a cloud of dark blue rose 
up on the far side of it, and we decided to take 
shelter from the last bit of shelter that there was 
on the dry land before going into the bog and meet 
ing the storm that must soon come out of that 
cloud. And very good shelter we found, a good 
warm haystack. And had it not been for my Labra 
dor retriever the cattle that were there sheltering 
too, prevented from eating it by a strand of wire, 
would not have grudged it to us. As it was, they 



GOLDEN PLOVER 175 

had to watch the dog, for to watch a dog whenever 
there is one in sight is a lore that is handed down 
among all cattle, from the times when they had to 
watch his cousins the wolves. Suddenly a line of 
white appeared over the bog, and a snowstorm 
came towards us. It did not last very long, and, as 
the ends of the dark cloud were raging away, we 
started on again and got to the far side of the bog 
with the wind behind us, which was a change after 
having it for some while in our faces, and, as I 
have said before, the best way to shoot snipe. Snipe 
were very scarce today and I only got four, but it 
was pleasant to walk that wild stretch of marshes 
so rarely trodden by man, through the pale brown 
reeds with all their pennons streaming the same 
way. And the dark plumed head of one of these 
reeds has to be watched very carefully whenever 
one drops a snipe. If it falls a long way off one 
must watch the dark-brown plume without ever 
blinking; for let the eye stray for an instant, and 
the rush that stands sentry over one s fallen snipe 
will be at once relieved by one of the other million. 
In a very long mark one nearly always finds the 
bird, when one does find it, or when one s dog does, 
some yards nearer than where one thought it would 
be ; but with these tall rushes one naturally takes 
one s mark by their conspicuous heads ; but those 
heads are some way over the water, so that though 
the snipe appears to have fallen right on one par- 



176 MY IRELAND 

ticular rush, and though one keeps one s eye on it 
while one walks ninety yards, it is actually to be 
found at that spot on the surface of the water which 
was eclipsed by the head of the rush from where 
one stood when one fired the shot, that is to say a 
good ten yards further on. One of my snipe took 
a few minutes to find, for this reason ; but the line 
was all right, and so long as that is not many inches 
out one finds one s snipe in the end. This is about 
the most important part of shooting, for if one 
could not find one s birds it would be much worse 
than useless to kill them, 

A duck or two got up, but far out of shot. It was 
one of those bogs in which the aim of keeping one s 
knees dry cannot quite be fulfilled, and it is in sev 
eral ways difficult to walk ; and yet it is not only 
getting out of it that is satisfying, but I always look 
back on it after with so much satisfaction that I 
think there must be something in a large bog that 
is more essentially Irish than in any other area of 
land. Perhaps it is of all things the most obviously 
and tangibly different from pavement, and perhaps 
we weary of pavements more than we ourselves 
suppose. As we reached the car another storm of 
snow came at us from over the bog, but we pulled 
up the windows against it and they were soon 
white. And now night has come, and the wind is 
blowing with changeable moods and there is cer 
tainly a great deal to be said for a bright fire. 



GOLDEN PLOVER 177 

On Sunday, partly because one is always in to 
lunch, one is more likely to see a few friends and 
neighbors than on another day: they also have 
more leisure on that day. So one discusses the 
state of Europe and whether the woodcock are in, 
and what s going to happen next and what coverts 
are holding foxes. To look at the world thus is 
better than reading of it; better, too, than looking 
at it fixedly out of one window; for it is better to 
share with others one s ignorance of what machin 
ery is going to do to our civilization, than to pry 
alone into the dark of the future. 

We have hot water laid on to this island from the 
Gulf of Mexico, and whenever the wind is from 
the southwest, as it nearly always is, we have 
warmth from our central heating, while on the 
same latitude further east they have almost Arctic 
winters. But at any time that the wind changes 
during the winter, even to go to4,the south, we 
get the northern weather. It is blowing from the 
south today and, though there is no snow, there 
is that bleak cold in the air that makes men draw 
nearer the firesides and woodcock go into the 
woods. So I went to the woods with a few beaters, 
to see if the woodcock were in ; and I shot a few 
of them and a few pheasants and a couple of rab 
bits. And then the south wind filled itself with 
rain, and the afternoon set in all gray with mist, 
and there would be a drip from the trees and the 



iy8 MY IRELAND 

beaters would all have got wet, and so I shot no 
more. I may say that the number of pheasants one 
shoots depends obviously on the number of eggs 
that one has laid down. But sport is an ancient 
thing, and I do not like to see it separated from any 
of its ancient companions, the great winds and the 
moon and the snow. Such things as these bring 
the woodcock, so that he seems to come with some 
of their splendor about him; but there is no such 
splendor about the poulterer or the train that 
delivers his goods. And apart from the feelings 
with which one waits for the woodcock, and 
watches the storms and the moon, on which his 
arrival depends, there is the fact well known to all 
who know the ways of the woods, that when they 
are full of pheasants the woodcock will not come. 
And so for twenty-five years I have laid down no 
pheasants eggs, and the ones we have are removed 
from the poulterer s shop by at any rate as many 
generations as separate ourselves from days almost 
legendary. 

Next day being a holy day, the snipe bogs no 
longer had the lonely appearance that is natural to 
those waste places. Here and there one would 
hear from the fields the cries of young men playing 
hurley, but many of these young men and many 
boys were to be seen walking in small bands past 
patches of furze, or among the brambles of derelict 
woods from which most of the timber was gone, 



GOLDEN PLOVER 179 

and along the edges of bogs and such wild places, 
accompanied, of course, by the friend of man ; all 
of them, dogs and men, inspired with the same 
hope, which was that the dog might catch a rabbit 
And beyond the hope, no doubt, lay a day-dream 
that they might even chance on a hare. And with 
this hope and this day-dream dancing before them 
I met boys wherever I went. Even if the boys were 
not in clear view, there were always eyes watching 
from behind patches of furze, behind trees, or over 
the tops of hedges. 

Even where snipe were not disturbed it made 
shooting a difficult and uneasy pastime, and I did 
not get many snipe until I came to the river, whose 
banks are strictly preserved for the sake of the 
coursing, and whose kind owners allow me to shoot 
the snipe. There there were no bands of young 
sportsmen and I got a few more snipe. When I 
got back to the road the golden plover were in the 
sky high up and shaped like big Vs, as though 
traveling on a long journey; but they were not 
traveling, for one saw if one watched them long 
enough that they had no particular course and were 
almost circling. Before nightfall they would be 
down to the fields over which they were now sail 
ing. Near a house at the roadside I met a boy of 
seven or eight, who like myself was out with a 
weapon. His was a catapult, wrought I should say 
from the inner tube of a motor tire. I do not know 



i8o MY IRELAND 

what he hunted, perhaps he waited for a sparrow, 
or he may have put his hopes on the million-to- 
one chance of a lion coming that way, or, for that 
matter, a unicorn. But at any rate he had his 
catapult and was ready, and would have shown 
little mercy to sparrow, lion or unicorn, had any of 
them passed by on that holiday. 

Suddenly the golden plover began to dip, and 
came down steeply beyond some haystacks. I had 
met them earlier in the day and got one, but at the 
haystacks my maneuver failed, and they all got 
safely away. And then I remembered a field where 
I had lain out for them in other years, a field over 
which they used to flight at evening. They might 
do so still, and I should not know if I merely won 
dered about it and went home to my tea. So as 
evening was coming on we motored to the gate in 
the field, and took a rug from the motor and carried 
it to the part of the field over which I had remem 
bered them flighting, and lay down on it wearing 
a thick coat which was light in color and would 
not show up against the grass. The west was 
cloudy, with golden chasms amongst the rock-like 
clouds. Very soon the stillness was broken by the 
notes of the golden plover and the faint whirr of 
their wings, going over high. But it was a long 
time before they dipped at all, and when they did 
they flew over another field, and I just heard them 
in the distance and went to it. And one small 



GOLDEN PLOVER 181 

bunch of them came by me, and I got one. A few 
fields away, as I came back in the dark, the lights 
of a town were shining here and there, intensely 
bright in comparison to any light still lingering 
over the sunset There was a, certain beauty in 
them at that hour, when nothing else had color. 
I suppose that for animals roaming the fields by 
night these lights have as much mystery as have 
the stars for us. 

And probably this mystery never diminishes, as 
the mystery of the stars diminishes for us under the 
prying of our large telescopes. But in the case of 
these brighter lights there is a menace added to 
mystery, and they are avoided like curses, except 
by the fox, whose cunning teaches him to overcome 
the terror that there is in the lights of man, in 
order to snatch his food, which he knows is to be 
found clucking about the houses of men. Notes of 
stray golden plover calling for their companions 
rang now quite near me, but it was too dark to 
shoot. With my small bag I turned homeward, 
thinking of warmth and tea, and thinking, too, of 
an old cottage that I had passed earlier in the day, 
a thatched cottage by the road, at a point at which 
I often left the car, to walk to some rushy fields in 
which I used to find snipe. I used to see a woman 
standing in her doorway as I went by, and her dog 
used always to be barking. But now one could see 
at a glance, as one passed the cottage, that it was 



182 MY IRELAND 

desolate and given over to weeds. I cannot recol 
lect exactly by what one saw this ; it was not only 
that there was no smoke going up from the chim 
ney; it must have been by a certain look in the 
weeds, a certain air of ownership. I said to my 
gamekeeper: "Why! You remember that cottage. 
It s all in ruin now." 

And he said, "There was only an old woman 
living there, and I d say that when she died it 
would go along with her." 



XIX 

Weeds and Moss 

U/N the night that followed the holy day it froze, 
and the morning was dank and cold again. It is as 
though winter is muttering threats, but has sent no 
storms as yet As a very small frost is sufficient to 
banish the snipe from their feeding-grounds, my 
keeper collected some beaters and we went to an 
other wood. But the cold had not been enough to 
put the woodcock in ; or else it was that because 
this wood has been thinned during summer and 
autumn, the few home-bred woodcock whose resort 
it is had left it, and the rumor had got about 
amongst wild things that live in woods that there 
was something wrong about this wood. Or else the 
woodcock newly arrived, that came by the moon of 
November, and had known the wood last year, 
found all the furniture altered, and did not like the 
changes that had been made, but, finding some tree- 
trunk gone, which had always been a protection 
against the north wind, were ill content with the 
wood and went elsewhere. Whatever the cause, I 
shot pigeons and rabbits but saw never a single 
woodcock. There are some to whom the rabbits 
will be welcome, so the morning was not wasted. 

183 



1 84 MY IRELAND 

In the afternoon the fog came crawling in, narrow 
ing the view slowly, so that I was reduced to this 
poor expedient of writing about shooting, instead 
of doing it. And now the fog is gone, but the 
stars are cold and bright as though the winter had 
not quite made up its mind. 

And now while winter hovers let me turn for a 
moment to trifles, in fact to boots. One walks many 
miles with boots when one is shooting, and my 
remarks on this trivial matter may save some 
sportsman an uncomfortable walk. And this is my 
advice about shooting-boots; to order where one 
can give orders, and to request elsewhere, that one s 
wet shooting-boots should never be put in any room 
where there is a fire. For, if they are, the odds are 
scarcely a hundred to one against somebody put 
ting them near enough to the fire to fry them, which 
means that the boots will not last a hundred days 
of wear before some part of them hardens to about 
the toughness of wood ; and, as fried leather can 
not be softened, it would be cheaper to buy a 
wooden pair to start with* 

Another thing that I have to say about boots 
applies chiefly to boots in Ireland where the snipe- 
bogs mostly are. I have heard shooting men more 
than once or twice say that they have holes bored 
in the soles of their boots to let the water out This 
is a heresy; for water in winter can be cold enough 
actually to hurt one s feet, but it very soon warms 



WEEDS AND MOSS 185 

when it has been in one s boots awhile; but, if one 
has holes in them, one insures a continuous supply 
of perfectly cold water. Once I bought a pair of 
waders up to my thighs, and they were made sev 
eral inches higher on one side than on the other, 
adding to their weight without increasing their 
usefulness. This shows what funny things people 
will sometimes do in shops, for they might have 
noted in the nearest pond that by the time the water 
came over any side of the boot it would flood the 
whole boot. Such boots are deceptive, and may 
lead the wearer to think that he has more to spare 
than he actually has. 

Our southwest wind has whimsically returned, 
and we set off in search of golden plover, which 
seem to be in the country as they were four years 
ago, and as they have scarcely been since, I do not 
know on what winds they ride, nor what storms 
turn them back: if I did, I should learn from them 
as much about that depression near Iceland as we 
hear from the B.B.C. But, wonderful as wireless 
is, and learned as are our scientists, I feel that the 
birds know all the news of the weather forecast, 
and some of it they unwittingly tell us, writing the 
news with long Vs in the sky and bringing inland 
the tale of storms upon northern seas. 

The outwitting of golden plover depends, in one 
of its branches, on going to the right spot in a 
hedge, while another man goes round to the far 



i86 MY IRELAND 

side of a field and drives them over. But I did not 
go to the right spot in the hedge, and only got one. 
Then I drew a small snipe-bog blank, because it 
had been drained. But my gamekeeper pointed 
out that there was no harm in that, for it would be 
just the same again in two or three years. And this 
is undoubtedly true, for soil and air in Ireland 
seem to be at one in bringing back the bog to its 
own, wherever man has lifted the spade against it 
The soil seems to work for the bog, while the damp 
air fights against man. And so the spade is laid by, 
and the bog steals softly back ; and in a few years 
there it is again, as though man had never troubled 
its ancient stillness. All over the world the struggle 
between civilized man and untamed earth is the 
primary human interest. Tolstoy says that when 
men speak of agriculture they discuss only the na 
ture of the soil and overlook the nature of the man 
that has to till it, which, as he rightly says, is of 
equal importance. And both these natures are 
made by the wind and the weather. 

Memorials to this struggle may be found all over 
Ireland, and they mostly seem memorials to the 
victors, the wind and the weather. Sometimes one 
sees a little square of low green mounds in a field, 
that were once the walls of a cottage, sometimes 
the bare towers of a castle, or towers that seem to 
keep themselves warm by clutching a cloak of ivy; 
for castles and cottages have been equally over- 



WEEDS AND MOSS 187 

thrown by the will of the southwest wind, with its 
listlessness that seems to defeat enduring purpose 
and its damp that overthrows mortar. Where cot 
tages are attacked those two forces seem to be 
equally triumphant, the mud walls falling down 
and none caring to build them up ; but in the case 
of the castles their magnificent masonry is still 
standing against the damp, and yet they have sur 
rendered to weeds and moss and jackdaws, till one 
wonders if there is anything in Ireland that will 
hold out long against these. 

Between the castle and the graveyard of Trimles- 
town I saw the golden plover in large flocks today, 
going up and down over a field in the distance and 
alighting just out of sight We planned where I 
should go, and I asked my keeper to drive the 
golden plover to me, which he agreed to do, though 
remarking that it is harder to drive golden plover 
right than to maneuver an army. He maneuvered 
them quite well ; and it is no use wishing now that 
I had gone to the best place, where I would have 
been close to a huge flock; but I got four of them. 
Then to two small snipe-bogs, one of them blank, 
and the other only providing two snipe; and so 
home. These are days when a dark shadow hung 
over Ireland, and over the Empire; today indeed 
is December loth, 1936; but I have undertaken to 
write this book, and so must get on with it whether 
history frowns or smiles. 



188 MY IRELAND 

The next day has come, and it is raining hard. 
It is curious how one s mind welcomes a rainy day; 
not openly, yet pry into its recesses and it does 
welcome it sometimes. For a rainy day keeps one 
indoors. Apply too much logic to this and it would 
appear that one could stay indoors any day, whether 
it rained or not. But logic, like whisky, loses its 
beneficial effect when taken in too large quantities. 
I mean that to throw off a glass of whisky neat, 
merely because it happens to be standing handy, 
is not necessarily good; and in the same way a 
thing may be logically true and yet it may not be 
always good to apply it there and then. For sup 
posing I stayed indoors, not lured out by sport, or 
supposing any man stayed indoors without power 
ful reason, not being taken into the open air by 
whatever usually takes him out, as sport takes me, 
it would constitute a triumph of indolence over 
sport, or over the other man s occupation, whatever 
it be, and it would be a triumph that indolence 
would not soon forget, and indolence would estab 
lish itself firmly. 

Indolence has other antagonists besides sport, 
but sport is one of them, and however idle some 
may suppose sportsmen to be, we are at least sharp 
ening our wits against the west wind or the north 
wind, whereas there is nothing to put any edge on 
them as we sit before the fire. It is a terrible thing 
to take exercise as one sometimes takes it in a ship, 



WEEDSANDMOSS 189 

walking eight times round the deck; for one s 
thoughts are always then turned inwards upon one s 
liver, wondering when one will have walked enough 
for it. But the sportsman s thoughts are turned 
outwards away from his lights and liver, which 
thrive none the worse for that; and so his thoughts 
are free to mingle with their betters, the four winds 
and the snow. And the more I think of the strong 
winds that blow in a sportsman s face, the pleas- 
anter they seem to be, because I am not out in them, 
but am sitting before a fire; and the gray shapes of 
the rain go by like the ghosts of giants. 

In the afternoon the rain lifted a little and I 
went to a small and neighboring bog. There was 
only one snipe on it and I got him, though it took 
me two shots to do it. Had there been more, I 
should probably have missed most of them, for 
over all that low land the darkness made by the 
rain hung like a dome. 

Night came, and we heard the farewell of the 
King. 



XX 

The Wind and the Wet Against the Cottages 



I 



SAW today one of the very things I was writing 
about in the last chapter. I went after snipe after 
a night of rain, which had had the effect of moving 
them from the bogs in which I expected to find 
them. But, coming down the side of a green hill 
to one of these bogs, I came on four green lines 
that marked the site of a cottage. One could still 
see where the door had stood, and another line 
showed in the center, where an inner wall had 
divided the cottage into two rooms. None of these 
mounds was more than a foot high, and all were 
overgrown with grass, and nothing else remained 
to show that a cottage had been there ; nothing else 
but these five low mounds and my memory ; for I 
remember, and it does not seem so many years ago, 
that a herdsman used to live in a cottage that stood 
there, and he always used to come out of his house 
to meet me, when I came to shoot the bog. In my 
own lifetime the wind and the weather and the 
weeds have clutched this house and dragged it 
down to the earth, so that little more of it remains 
than what archeologists find when they search for 
buried cities. One does not fully understand Ire- 

190 



THE WIND AND THE WET 191 

land if one overlooks the pace with which ruin 
floats on the gentle wind, and the grudge that the 
Irish soil seems to bear to civilization. Earth seems 
to triumph in the end over civilization everywhere, 
but a few decades in Ireland seem to have powers 
to bring down oblivion, such as only comes with a 
thousand years to Egypt 

The first bog was quite blank, and on the next 
one I only got two snipe. A path lies across this 
bog near to one end of it, probably made first by 
cut gorse-bushes or any timber that was handy, and 
then stones were laid down on that. I have never 
seen anyone crossing it, though probably a good 
many men do ; the only creatures I have ever met 
on it are goats. By this path I always come out of 
the bog when I have finished shooting it, and where 
I come out of it there is an old cottage, standing in 
a little space fenced by whatever may have come 
handy during the last fifty years or so, such as bits 
of boxes, sticks, old broom-handles, and the end of 
a broken bedstead, all thrown together on scraps 
of wire. And the bog seems to watch the house as 
a panther watches an Indian village ; sometimes it 
rises and goes through the little garden right up 
to the door, and in bad winters it goes stealing into 
the house itself : one day it will sweep the house 
altogether away, and a few years after only low 
mounds will show that men dwelt there at the edge 
of the bog for ages. I was invited to look inside 



192 MY IRELAND 

It only a week ago, and I got the impression in the 
dimness beside the huge old fireplace that the thick 
mud walls were very near to their end, and that 
soon there would come a night when the bog below 
and the storm above would join forces, and victory 
would be with the weeds and the moss and the 
water over this little outpost of man. 

Of course when that happens the present occu 
pants will go to a modern laborer s cottage, in 
which they will find dryness and shelter from 
draughts, and brighter rooms; and oh, how they 
will regret the huge, thick walls, crumbling and 
damp though they were, and the great fireplace, in 
spite of the winds that roared down the chimney, 
and that dimness in all the corners, in which there 
was room for dreams. And how they will miss the 
storms coming over the bog by night to rattle their 
door, and the sound of the sighing of reeds, and a 
hundred other perfectly useless things! And how 
I shall sympathize with them in their folly ! 

Why do people ever feel like that at all? Why 
object to a laborer s cottage merely because mil 
lions are like it, or why care for crumbling walls 
under a weedy thatch? I think it is because in our 
hearts we like things to have meanings, and to tell 
us at a glance what need of ours they fulfil and 
what they are helping us to do. These cottages rose 
from maternal Irish soil to shelter Irish people, 
and their thatches are darkened by rain that the 



THE WIND AND THE WET 193 

southwest wind has led over them through the 
ages. They are a part of the countryside, and they 
clasp their people to it. But there are cottages 
being built now, in Ireland as elsewhere, that seem 
to mean so little that they could not tell to a traveler 
even what country he was in : doubtless such cot 
tages are arising all over Europe, and no one could 
tell by the look of them whether he had crossed 
any frontier or not. Their physical advantages are 
so obvious that I need not write them down, whereas 
the spiritual advantage of the old cottages that link 
country and countryman are amongst those rare in 
fluences that, vital though they be and not imper 
ceptible to any of us, are too delicate to define and 
to prove. But do not let it be thought that all the 
physical advantages are with the Ruritanian cot 
tages, as we may call the cottages that represent the 
architecture of no particular country; I doubt if 
they will stand half as long as the old Irish cottages, 
and I am sure their thin brick walls are not so 
warm, and that the quiet of the old deep thatches 
will be strange to them. 

A certain dissatisfaction with modern cottages is 
even expressed in a letter to the Westmeath Board 
of Health, which I have just seen quoted in the 
Irish Times: 

"I want you to take my cottage to another side of 
the land. Where it is, is on a pass. The good 
people are displeased, and the life is frightened 



194 MY IRELAND 

out of Minnie, for when she goes to the well for 
water she sees a little red man with a green cap 
and he laughs and jeers at her. He is one of the 
King fairies from Rawmore. They kick football 
in the race park, and my house is on the pass. I 
had to leave a drop of whisky on the window on 
Christmas night to keep them in good form. The 
house is haunted, and so is the plantation at the 
back. It is a terrible thing to make a man live in 
such a place in a Christian country. I am kept 
awake at night when there is a big match, and when 
I m late for work Mr. Dick is vexed. The fairies 
in this place are no joke, and there are big ones 
in the race park. If I had a fairy man to go to 
like Conor Sheridan I used to hear my father talk 
ing about I would be all right, but I have not, and 
I want to tell you there s a leprechaun captain at 
Cummerstown." 

This, I think, shows that not all modern cottages 
are entirely suited to the needs of the country. 

The Westmeath Board of Health have decided 
that the Engineer should report on it. 

I knew an old woman once who lived in a cottage 
beyond one of my woods. At one end of the cottage 
she had a cavernous fireplace, and gradually she 
stacked round it as much timber as she was able to 
collect from my wood in a long lifetime, except 
such as burned away in the fireplace to fill her dark 
room with warmth, a fireplace more suitable in 



THE WIND AND THE WET 195 

size to the hall of a feudal castle than to this small 
building of mud. Weeds had so long obscured the 
outside of her window and the huge mass of timber 
so darkened everything inside, that even by day 
there was little light in the cottage except for the 
glow of the fire. To the far end from the fire it 
was too dark to see ; dim heaps of things seemed to 
be moldering there, but I never knew what they 
were. Though her door was all soft with decay, 
it was still a door to her, and she aske.d me to give 
her a lock for it One day from a system of which 
she knew nothing, with a tyranny that seemed to 
bewilder her, there came talk of sanitary inspec 
tors ; and she implored me to save from these tyran 
nous people the cottage in which she had lived for 
eighty years. Coming in on the wrong side, I 
was able to do this for her; and she lived there 
happily until one day her cottage fell, and she went 
to live with relations, but her dog ran away and 
was never heard of again. In a world of change 
and struggle that cottage must have been to the dog 
the one calm and abiding thing, situated exactly 
at the center of the universe. And then one day it 
fell, and he fled, probably fearing, poor thing, that 
if he stayed near that field any longer the Milky 
Way would come down on him next 

The next day was Sunday, and we went to lunch 
with neighbors, and exchanged with them views 
of this troubled world. The word neighbor was, 



196 MY IRELAND 

I may say, always a more elastic word in Ireland 
than on the other side of the Channel, even before 
the days of motors and before house-burning be 
came a political issue. We went so far to see these 
neighbors that we came to the rim of the view on 
which Tara gazes. We came to hills on whose 
summits one sees ancient stones, showing that the 
huge view northwards to the small lakes and south 
wards over Meath, which can impress men of 
today, must have awed the people of an earlier age, 
till they expressed their awe by raising these stones 
with their quaint carvings, which to them must 
have expressed what they would say, but whose 
message is dumb to us. Or it may be that what 
impressed the Milesians, who buried their kings on 
these hills, was less the great view from these hills 
than the appearance of them in the distance, from 
where they met on festival days at Tara. For the 
hills of Slieve-na-Calliagh seem very blue from 
Tara, and unlike the fields of this world ; and the 
long row of them going over the utmost rim of the 
view might upon many an evening have hinted to 
the people gazing from Tara that amongst that 
gathering of dim blue mountains there was the 
magic for which their hearts were yearning, and 
of which their druids spoke. And so, when the end 
came to the days of their kings, they carried them 
there to the hills that seemed so mysterious, trust 
ing those far blue slopes to hold the mystery of 



THE WIND AND THE WET 197 

death. There the Milesians buried Ollamh Fodhla, 
one of the chief of their kings, at the top of the 
hill, with counties spread out all round him. I do 
not know what hopes they had of heaven, but they 
must have had a great love of ea^th who chose this 
view. 

The view today was almost veiled with rain. On 
the way back I took one more look at it, from a hill 
upon which a tower stands overlooking Kells and 
from which one can see so much of the country that 
I make an attempt to describe; but, although the 
light of the afternoon should not yet have faded, 
there was not much of it left beneath the tumultu 
ous clouds that were blowing by low before a pow 
erful wind, and the hills of Meath seemed to be 
of a blue verging on blackness, and only the somber 
wood on the Hill of Fahan appeared clear to be 
seen. When we came to Navan, lights were already 
lit. 

And today I set out to pay in part what I feel 
to be a neglected debt, for I am to broadcast from 
Dublin about the work of Francis Ledwidge. 
Whether anyone will heed me I do not know, but 
at least words of Ledwidge s will be heard by 
many thousands, and that may in itself be some 
slight fulfilment of a young poet s hopes. But 
whether I speak his line;s or not, I feel that they 
are sufficiently lovely to take care of themselves 
in the end. Posterity will still be there while this 



198 MY IRELAND 

planet keeps on her course, and if there be merit 
in Ledwidge s lines, as I believe there is, Posterity 
will have time to assess it 

And when I went to Dublin I found that Ireland 
had altered much overnight; for in the country 
one sees, far quicker than ever one does in a town, 
whatever changes are brought by the varying 
moods of the weather; and today I saw a snipe get 
up in a green field and fly over the road, and later 
I saw a stream that had also strayed from its haunts, 
and was suddenly wild and free, for it had been 
raining all night. The stream was all over the 
fields on our right for a mile ; then it crossed the 
road, luckily underneath it, and went over the 
fields on our left. When streams do not keep to 
their banks it is hard to find snipe in the bogs, 
and I do not know where I shall look for any 
tomorrow. 

On arriving at Dublin I went to the Kildare 
Street Club, which is to Ireland something more 
than what the Carlton Club is to England. There 
I saw the old faces I used to know, but only painted 
on canvas; for the club in recent years acquired 
portraits of several of its prominent members, and 
these are the faces that I used to know, whereas to 
many of the present members I notice that my own 
face is strange. Thence I went to jog the memory 
of Ireland, lest she quite forget Ledwidge. 
A night of rain, and then frost, went by, and 



THE WIND AND THE WET 199 

the snipe will be frozen out of their bogs and the 
rain will have kept the woodcock out of the woods, 
for they hate the drip from the trees, so we went 
after golden plover. And the frost was not hard 
enough to send the golden plover away to the sea, 
for it takes a bone in the ground to do that, and we 
found them in the fields, feeding. We had several 
maneuvers, each producing something; but perfect 
success with golden plover is a thing that chance 
and caution only bring to one after many efforts. 
On this occasion I got no more than four, and a 
snipe by the side of a stream. There is an impor 
tant difference between dead thistles and dead 
golden plover, which is that you cannot cook the 
one and you can cook the other ; and very good he 
is when he is cooked. But, in spite of this differ 
ence, dead thistles and live golden plover are very 
much alike in a field and either can be mistaken for 
the other. We were discussing this very point, my 
keeper and I, of a thick brown bunch in the field. 
He said they were thistles. And as we discussed 
them they flew. 

And now a great wind outside is emphasizing 
the advantages of a good fire. 



XXI 

Only About the Weather 

ANOTHER day has come raging in, with a great 
voice in the sky, the voice of the south wind, chas 
ing clouds before it And we went to a snipe-bog 
which had, in some profusion, a feature that I have 
neglected as yet to mention as an important part of 
a snipe-shooter s country, that is to say streams and 
ditches. It is a bog some way off, and to the south 
of here, from which we can see the Dublin Moun 
tains smiling back at the sun. We had not gone 
there for two or three years, and my gamekeeper 
gave me several reasons to account for the width 
of the ditches; careful draining was one of these 
reasons, and the floods that the recent rains have 
brought was another. But the fact is that my game 
keeper is the same age as myself ; and, though we 
jumped all the ditches and streams, we found them 
wide, and it is the years that have widened them. 
I may say that when a ditch is wide enough for it 
to be necessary to discard all weight that can be 
discarded, there is no difficulty at all in throwing 
a gun across from one man to another; and one 
cannot fail to catch it, provided that it is thrown 

horizontally. 

200 



ONLY ABOUT THE WEATHER 201 

A night of rain always leaves the snipe alert and 
uneasy, and floods drive them to little high points 
of the grassy islands, so that they see further; and 
the two things together made them very wild. A 
wind was raging, with rain in it, which made shoot 
ing harder still, and I only got two snipe, though I 
happened to come on some pigeons on the way 
back and got four of them ; golden plover we met 
with also, and my keeper went off to drive them ; 
but I have already recorded his view that it is 
easier to maneuver an army, and on this occasion 
the army just outmaneuvered their general. He 
has, however, uttered the threat that we shall yet 
get in with them, to such an extent that there will 
be no room to close the door of the larder. To 
night there dines with us Dr. Gogarty, the famous 
Irish wit I do not think I shall be able to record 
anything that he says, as I think it will be too in 
discreet. My reason for this opinion is that rumor 
has told me he has been having some trouble with 
his publisher over parts of his new book, and he 
himself has told me that the B.B.C. have been ob 
jecting to all the wittiest bits of a broadcast that 
he is to give from Belfast. Thwarted therefore in 
two directions with repression of all indiscretion, 
his conversation, if there is anything in what psy 
chologists teach, is likely to be indiscreet. 

There arrived while I was out a load of turf, as 
we always call peat in Ireland. We live on that 



202 MY IRELAND 

fringe of green grazed by fat cattle, which lies 
beyond the red bogs, and we are about ten miles 
from the nearest. It is from the red bogs that they 
quarry with spear-like spades the turf for the Irish 
hearths. The scent of turf from a cottage round 
here is a thing that one notices : further west they 
would all be burning it. That scent in the air is, 
of all odors, the most essentially Irish. Would 
that this book could give to any reader the atmos 
phere of Ireland, as the smoke of turf can call it 
up for me. In this smoke the spirit of Ireland 
seems to lurk and hide. And here is an idea that 
I will present to the manager of any theater who 
desires to get an Irish atmosphere for some Irish 
play : let him, if he can imitate it, have the sound 
of a curlew calling occasionally in the distance and 
let him send into the auditorium a whiff from a 
smoldering sod of Irish turf; and he will get the 
Irish atmosphere by those means, certainly more 
cheaply, and perhaps more surely, than he has ever 
got it before. Feeling that way about it, I sent for 
a load of turf, though it is not the natural fuel of 
this end of the island. And it arrived today. It 
came from a bog whose name is an example of the 
beauty there is so often in Irish names. The name 
of the bog is Coolronan : through it runs the bound 
ary between Meath and Westmeath, and the view 
over it in at least one direction has that quality that 
is so valuable in a view, which is that it is illimit- 



ONLY ABOUT THE WEATHER 203 

able. In one direction it shares with desert and 
ocean the splendor of being unbounded by any 
thing but the sky. And now the turf is glowing at 
me, with that glow of its own that never turns to 
flame, or only to faintest flame. But, mix the turf 
with wood, and you have all the merriment of 
flame combined with the turf s deep glow. 

Last night a new moon was reported to me as 
having been observed, and being very wicked look 
ing; but I think she must be a few days old, for my 
gamekeeper tells me that Old Moore has foretold 
a full moon for next Monday week, and now it is 
Thursday. As for her being wicked looking, I do 
not wonder, for there is a raging sky today and, 
looking at it beyond the fields while I was search 
ing for golden plover, I saw the low sky light in 
the north; above that a bank of clouds lowered 
deep blue, with whitish-gray clouds racing across 
the darkness ; above them the sky, at half past two, 
was nearly as black as night, with more white 
clouds racing over it, wildly away from the west. 
It might well be what my gamekeeper estimated 
it, the wickedest-looking sky he had ever seen. 
Such weather has scattered the snipe away from 
the bogs ; and has driven the ducks from the pond 
that they flight to, for when floods are out they are 
off to look for the earthworms. And so we went 
to find the golden plover. I got four of them and 



204 MY IRELAND 

came home early, but even earlier the light was 
fading. 

On the next day we went to a bog to look for 
snipe. All the ditches were full to the brim, and 
most of the bog was flooded. When the soft banks 
of streams or ditches that run through bogs are full 
to the top they make very difficult jumping. A 
herdsman on our way to the bog told us it was full 
of snipe, but such information is not always wel 
come, for snipe are never seen unless they are fly 
ing, so that any news of them means they have been 
disturbed. A wind was still raging. We found 
some snipe that had not been flooded out, and I shot 
four. But in the opinion of my gamekeeper, who 
has considerable experience, they were wild as the 
Devil s father. So we left that bog and went to a 
much smaller one, no more than a marshy corner 
of a field, where I got three in half a minute. I 
must write no more of the weather, for it is every 
where considered the dullest of topics, and is of 
little interest to people in towns, which is, after 
all, where most men live. And yet in the open 
country the weather is a beautiful thing, and is 
constantly changing and is of the greatest impor 
tance to all whose living is made in the fields. And 
there it is in the sky, to be seen by everybody, like 
a series of vast pictures, replaced every few min 
utes; and beyond the visible scene are the omens 



ONLY ABOUT THE WEATHER 205 

and portents, foretelling storms or sunshine or 
snow. 

By the brightness of the sword of Orion, by the 
flight of a flock of geese, or by the reddening of 
berries, these things may be reckoned, so that one 
concerned with that humble topic, the weather, has 
interests neither narrow nor far aloof from our lot; 
they embrace fields and hedge-rows, and one of 
their boundaries is the Milky Way. If a society 
for the enjoyment of conversation were formed, 
and the only topic allowed when its members met 
were the weather, it might be full of descriptions 
of lovely scenes, and as varied as any topic could 
be, at any rate in Ireland, and it might be full of 
wise forebodings, and of some practical value. 
Only, at the meetings of such a society the weather 
reports of the wireless would have to be barred, for 
their is a certainty in such scientific pronounce 
ments that would bludgeon speculation and drive 
all fancies away. And, by the way, some society 
of this sort is surely needed, if only to rescue thou 
sands from the comparative monotony of bridge; 
for there is not the variety in the thirteen cards of 
hearts, diamonds, clubs or spades that there is in 
the winds that come from the four quarters. 

As for the gambling interest, money could just 
as well be staked on the morrow s weather; and 
there again the wireless would have to be barred, 
and resort to it would be cheating. Think of the 



206 MY IRELAND 

strength of the hand of a man who had seen thirty 
geese flying inland, against a man who was fore 
telling mild weather upon some much weaker suit. 
Did I say that I would write no more of the 
weather? I am not sure that it is possible to write 
of Ireland and to fulfil this promise: all countries 
and all peoples are made what they are by the 
weather, but in Ireland you almost see these things 
in the making, so strong is the southwest wind, so 
full of damp, so indolent its mood, and so much its 
strength seems to be used to impose its moods upon 
earth and buildings and men. 

Thousands of suns have shone upon millions of 
buds of heather, thousands of winds have beaten 
the blossoms down, and long gray rains have patted 
them into place; and so were made the Irish bogs, 
and the peat that we call turf. And I sit now by a 
fire of the turf that was made by ages of weather, 
and care no more for any weather outside. 



XXII 

A Great Hunt 

JLJ AY came in with cold, with a wind from the 
south, but the frost of the night was soon gone and 
had not been hard enough to freeze out snipe. So 
I went to some small marshes and marshy fields. 
One of them lay under a steep mound-like hill with 
gorse on the top, as there nearly always is on such 
hills, and the marsh ran right to the walls of a 
farmhouse, where the snipe lay very close, being 
accustomed to men s coming and going; but they 
were difficult to shoot when they got up, because, 
on account of the direction of the wind, I was walk 
ing straight to the house and had to see the snipe 
well clear of it before I fired. Another lay along 
a railway embankment, as small marshes often do, 
the water coming in where the earth has been taken 
out for the railway. 

The farmhouse here had one of the most domes 
tic and homely haystacks I have ever seen, for it 
abounded with little niches that were the warm 
homes of hens and dogs and cats. There is a tend 
ency nowadays in Ireland to turn bohereens into 
roads, and this tendency enabled me to get with my 
car closer to the next small marshy patch than I 

207 



208 MY IRELAND 

had ever been able to do before. And a fourth 
marsh we drove, that is to say my keeper went 
round it, and put some of the snipe over me; 
though, the wind not being exactly right, only -two 
came within shot I very rarely drive snipe, but 
we did so here because there is a house that would 
be right ahead of me, and within shot, if I walked 
them up. I have perhaps said enough about snipe, 
even though, after the phoenix, the snipe is, of all 
feathered things, probably the most Irish bird. But 
one thing more I will say of snipe, before I leave 
them, for it deals with the important matter of 
picking them up, and is a thing that I have not yet 
mentioned, that is to say that when two snipe are 
down, and the sportsman picks up one, he must 
make quite sure that it is the one he thinks it is; 
otherwise he will be looking for the second snipe 
in the wrong place. That happened today while 
the snipe were being driven ; for I had two down, 
one in a cabbage-garden beside a cottage and the 
other forty or fifty yards from it in a field. Search 
ing round the cottage we disturbed a cat just at the 
right moment, and found the snipe with only its 
head eaten off; then we looked for the other one 
in the field. 

But we had underrated the observation of the 
cat, which had seen the snipe drop in the field ; and 
that was the one it had retrieved for itself. 

After ten minutes searching in the field, we 



A GREAT HUNT 209 

looked in the cabbage-garden as a last resort, and 
soon found the other snipe. I got eleven snipe and 
a rabbit, in all; and perhaps that is enough about 
snipe. 

I should be leaving a staring gap in my life, or 
in the life of any surviving Irish landlord, were I 
to say nothing of hound-puppies. I was reminded 
of them today, as I passed near the stables on my 
way out to shoot, and there I saw a hound-puppy 
on a lawn quietly eating a boot Hound-puppies 
are sent out in pairs to houses throughout the 
county in the summer and are brought up on a diet 
of boots and rags, varied by an occasional hat, and 
find their own sport, chasing whatever will run in 
coverts near to the house. By the end of March, 
just when one is getting to know them rather well, 
they are called for and taken away from their life 
of indiscipline, to be members of a pack, and to 
learn no more to look at a rabbit than a soldier 
would play on parade with some toy of his infancy. 
I have only one hound-puppy here now; the other 
died in a plague of hysteria that swept the county. 
We had better find out, and find out quickly, what 
change it is in our own ways that has brought this 
disease upon dogs. For dogs do not change their 
ways ; it is we that are doing the changing. And 
we have done something that not even dogs can 
stand. And they are usually tougher than we. If it 
is bad food, the same commercial system that sup- 



210 MY IRELAND 

plies it is likely to poison us too. If it is something 
else, we had better find it out quickly; for it must 
be something pretty unwholesome, whatever it is. 
But above all things let us bear in mind that it is 
something quite new, and that some change must 
have brought it, and that it is we who change and 
not animals. 

Before light faded today I saw what I have 
sometimes heard of, but rarely seen, a parliament 
of the rooks. They came down about a hundred 
and fifty yards from our windows, and blackened 
the grass. There were far more of them than could 
have possibly come for feeding; there were more 
of them to the acre than there could have been 
worms for them. Sometimes they rose in a black 
wave and lighted again, or blew about in the south 
west wind like black leaves and returned again to 
the place from which they had risen. They were 
not there long, and I do not know why they came, 
but it was a great meeting ; and I have the feeling 
that something of great importance was discussed 
there, but none of us will ever know what it was. 
So let us turn back to our own affairs, which to us 
are more easily understood, and to us seem more 
important. I was talking of a hound-puppy eating 
a boot. What memories he brings back! I hope 
to ride within a reasonable distance of him yet, 
but my best hunts are behind me, hunts that I saw 



A GREAT HUNT 211 

when I could ride thirteen stone, and bits of which 
I remember, sitting before the fire. 

And if I have said that turf gives scarcely any 
flame, I should correct that now, for faint flames 
go up from it like the ghosts of flames, all golden, 
or like the spirits of flames in some fiery paradise 
to which good flames go, very thin and calm and 
restful. And when these flames sink they can be 
stirred up again by hitting the sods with a poker, 
which makes showers of golden sparks. And in 
front of such a fire I am thinking of old hunts, 
brought back to my memory by the puppy chewing 
a boot. There was the time when I had come in 
from a very good day with my harriers, for I had 
a pack of my own in those days. It was a day in 
March, and I was having a cup of tea, after three 
good runs with my hounds: the first was twenty 
minutes, my hunting diary tells me, the next twenty- 
five and the last one thirty-five, and I felt I had 
had a good day. It was almost five o clock and 
there was still plenty of light, when, looking out 
of the window, I saw cattle running near a wood. 
And it turned out that the Ward Hounds were in 
the wood, and coming in my direction. I had a 
fresh horse saddled and got on to him as soon as 
I could, and galloped off to overtake the Ward. I 
came up with them before I had gone two miles ; 
and there was I with a fresh horse, among men 
who had already done three miles when they came 



212 MY IRELAND 

to my wood, and it was their second hunt that day. 

It was a piece of luck such as might come one s 
way once in a lifetime ; and here it had come to me. 
And when it came, it came abundantly. For not 
only was I there on a fresh horse with the Ward, 
but I was in one of the finest hunts they were ever 
to have. I do not say that they have not had many 
as good, but it was one of their great hunts and it 
was the first time that they had enlarged that won 
derful hind that became an outlier, living mostly 
in my woods and being hunted off and on for sev 
eral years, giving a memorable hunt every time. 
Of course with my fresh horse, once I had caught 
them up, I had the advantage that a man with a 
joker in his hand would have at a game of bridge, 
or a bowler at cricket enjoying the use of a Mills 
bomb. We were going westwards and a tired field 
were dropping away, until there was only one other 
man beside myself with the hounds, a Mr. Davis, 
as my hunting diary records. A house that I knew 
flashed by us, and I knew we had come eight miles 
from my own door, going straight. And then for 
a very brief time I remember being alone with the 
Ward Hounds, which I never had been before and 
was never to be again. 

Brindley, the huntsman, soon came up again and 
one of the whips and, I think, Mr. Davis, although 
the Irish Times of March i^th, 1904, only records 
Brindley and one whip and me as reaching the 



A GREAT HUNT 213 

end of the run. And the end of the run was simply 
the end of the day; with the Boyne before us and 
night coming up from behind, Brindley called his 
hounds off and we turned homewards. Then night 
came down in earnest and even the white patches 
on the hounds backs disappeared, and the only 
light we saw was from sparks from the horses 
hooves. It had been a run of two hours, the first 
twenty minutes of which I had not seen, and I had 
nothing to boast of in getting to the end of it, when 
luck played so large a part; but the time when I 
was alone with them in the sunlight, and Brindley 
in the twilight at the bank of the Boyne, and the 
dark road, riding home, live clearly yet in my 
memories. 



A, 



XXIII 

A Bad Night to be Out 



ANOTHER Sunday came round, and we lunched 
with neighbors. I wasted some of the time during 
which I might have heard a good deal of news of 
local interest, by trying to convince a neighbor at 
table by argument. For there was a litter of pup 
pies in the house, and that -gave rise to the topic 
of mutilating their tails, and I tried to convince 
my neighbor against this cruelty by which we gain 
nothing and our good friends lose so much. But 
people are cruel or kind by nature and not by logic, 
and Fashion is more powerful than any argument 
of mine, so that I failed utterly. And yet thirty 
years ago I used to employ the same arguments in 
the hunting-field, or rather on roads jogging from 
covert to covert, against cutting the tails off horses ; 
and I failed just as completely then, and people 
thought me just as mad for trying then for the sake 
of horses as they think me now for my efforts to 
spare dogs; and then one day most of the world 
came my way, and hardly anybody cuts tails off 
horses now. 

And I write this to encourage all who attack 
abuses ; for the abuse looks firm as a mountain for 

214 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 215 

years, and then one day it collapses flabbily. The 
mutilation of dogs will go the way of other wild 
whims of fashion; but I don t know when. I will 
not argue with my reader about it, or attempt to 
instruct him in the uses dogs have for their tails, 
for a little observation will reveal many of these 
uses, while those that have not leisure for such 
observation may credit the Creator with under 
standing His work. Some may think that I who 
hunt foxes am not the right person to protest against 
cruelty to animals. And that may be so. And yet, 
better have the wrong- person protesting than no 
body at all. And there is a glamor in the brush of 
a fox that makes its pursuit a great temptation : I 
only ask those who rob dogs of their tails to abstain 
from this great deprivation where they have so 
little temptation to do it; only a debased eye, which 
will very soon right itself after they have seen a 
few natural terriers. 

Being mainly amongst racing men I learned a 
use for a horse s tail that I had not thought of 
before. 

Next day I went to a snipe-bog on which I had 
only got two snipe ten days ago, and this time I 
got nine, and on a small bog a few fields away five 
more. The uncertainties of sport depend on so 
many things, that they must remain merely uncer 
tain. But one reason why I got more snipe this 
time was that three of my fourteen were jacks ; and 



2I 6 MY IRELAND 

when the jacks are there the foreign snipe are in, 
for the jack is migratory, and there are scarcely 
any of them in the country until the flight comes 
over the sea, and about half the full snipe that we 
have in the bogs come with it. The next bog I 
went to was blank. 

"Was anybody shooting it?" I asked of a couple 
of men who were looking on. 

"Sure nobody shoots it only yourself," said one 
of them. "The snipe will be back tomorrow and 
you ll always find plenty of them here." 

"The only thing I d be afraid of," said the other 
man, "would be if anybody built an hotel, and ad 
vertised for people to come and get the shooting. 
They might come along in a motor car." 

"Ah," said the first man, "the best thing if he 
did that would be to shoot him. Sure anybody 
would do that for you," he added, turning to me. 

"I wouldn t say that would be a good plan," said 
the other man thoughtfully. "Sure he d only have 
what they call executors. And the first thing they d 
do would be to sell the hotel to somebody else. 
But it might be better to blow the hotel up one 
night. Sure a charge of dynamite would do it." 

"Aye," said the first man, "that d be best." 

"Is there any hotel anywhere near?" I asked. 

"Sure there is not," said the men. 

"Then we needn t bother about the dynamite," I 
said. 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 217 

"Begob, you re right," said the first man. "Sure 
you ve thought it out well." 

I have slightly altered the actual conversation, 
because to write and sell the exact words of a man 
gives me the feeling of having stolen them. The 
moralist would say that the thing is no better for 
being disguised. And of course he would be right 

The evening of another day has come, and I sit 
again in front of my fire of turf, the same kind of 
turf that I have been walking during the day, for 
I went to a red bog to look for woodcock. It was 
a mild day, when they are likely to be away from 
the woods and may be found in the heather. One 
walks down a lane to it from a corner of the 
demesne-wall of one of the finest houses in Meath. 
The wall leans outward in many places, ready to 
fall if the ivy should chance to leave go of it, and 
the house is a windowless ruin, burnt for political 
reasons, upon which I will not enlarge, for they 
are well enough known in Ireland, while my Eng 
lish readers are not likely to have that inner knowl 
edge of politics which it is necessary to have before 
all the advantages of burning the house of a man 
with whose politics you are in disagreement are 
clearly understood. 

It stands on a hill, this house, and the long row 
of its windows looking south over woods that are 
now in ruin, like so much else, must have seen so 
much sunshine in that wide view, all through the 



218 MY IRELAND 

bright months, that perhaps whoever named it may 
have had the idea that Summer itself dwelt under 
the slopes of that hill. I have the kind permission 
of the owner of it to shoot the red bog that lies 
wild at the edges of the estate, and so I went down 
the bohereen that leads to the bog, past one or two 
cottages where surprised dogs barked, till I came 
to a small farmhouse with a lovely thatch, and 
after that nothing dwelt but wild things. I had 
brought a few beaters in another car, and we 
walked the bog for two and a half hours, but it had 
been burned less than three years ago and the 
heather was not quite enough to give the cover that 
woodcock prefer. However, I got four of them, 
and four snipe and a rabbit; and for a smaller bag 
than this I would have gone further for the plea 
sure of walking that strange wild land that goes by 
the name of the red bog. I noticed no turf-stacks 
on it this year for the first time, and when I came 
to a promontory about twelve feet high, and little 
more than twenty yards long and broad, I realized 
that the reason for the absence of turf-stacks was 
that, with the exception of this high bit, the entire 
bog had probably been cut away. 

They could do it in a few centuries, and that is 
what must have happened. There is still bog be 
low what has been cut, but it is probably too wet 
for men to work it. The only difference that the 
cutting has made, besides slightly lowering the 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 219 

level, is that there may be a little more moss and a 
little less heather, but the difference is barely per 
ceptible. On two sides of it are pine woods, so that 
one usually knows in which direction a woodcock 
is going to fly. The flight of these birds is so rapid, 
that after shooting at them one finds it a little easier 
to kill snipe. As we had our lunch on the bog I 
noticed a very bright patch of sky, and the wind 
seemed to have shifted a little more to the west, 
and it looks as if we shall have cold weather. As 
we left the bog we put up a fox, and he went away 
to the dry land. 

"The devil go along with him," said the farmer 
who lived by the edge of the bog. And probably 
the devil does, for he is against all our orderliness 
and our conventions, as the fox is against our chick 
ens. They are two wild spirits. As a fox-hunter I 
rejoice in the fox. Do clergymen have the same 
feeling about the devil? 

It is the day on which we have a Christmas tree 
for the school children here, and I arrived too late 
to see it, for children have to be home before dark; 
but I was in time to see them all before they left, 
making with varied instruments the kind of music 
that perhaps was made by the musicians of Neb 
uchadnezzar on the occasion when people were 
required to worship the image that he, Nebuchad 
nezzar the King, had set up. Thus Father Christ 
mas is glorified. And now the turf from Coolronan 



220 MY IRELAND 

is not only glowing, but is sending up its thin ghosts 
of golden flames ; and, outside, the sky is luminous 
with moonlight, from a moon eight days old, but 
the stars are shining brightly out of the glow. It 
is cold and still, and the sound of water falling a 
long way off, where a stream goes over a weir, 
comes very clear through the stillness. 

And that night brought the frost that all omens 
were prophesying, and I went to a wood with 
beaters, to look for woodcock. It is a square wood 
with a gorse in the middle of it, originally de 
signed as a fox-covert; and foxes and woodcock 
seem to live there together quite happily. But it 
was not an enduring frost, and the drip, which 
these birds hate, had already begun ; and we only 
saw two woodcock, which I was fortunately able 
to get, as well as some rabbits. It was not the 
weather in which to look for any more woodcock, 
and yet the frost was a little too hard for one to be 
sure of snipe on the bogs. 

And all of a sudden I remembered the purpose 
of this book, which I have set aside so long. And 
that purpose is to lay before my readers what the 
people of Ireland really think about their new po 
litical system. It had almost slipped my memory, 
crowded out by things that to me are more interest 
ing than politics. I shot no more that day, and 
decided to go and see Old Mickey as soon as pos 
sible ; though, various trifles delaying me, I did not 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 221 

actually start till the following day. On that day 
I started off by car towards the blue west that one 
can see from Tara, and lunched by the roadside on 
sandwiches beyond Trim, and went on leisurely, 
watching the landscape growing wilder as we went 
west; and, it being Christmas Eve, the daylight 
began to fade before one had thought of evening, 
and was already fading when I arrived at Cran- 
ogue. And there was Old Mickey sitting in his 
doorway as usual, 

"I came to ask you what you promised to tell 
me," I said to him. 

"And what was that?" said Old Mickey. 

"What the people think of this new government 
that we ve got," I said. 

"Aye ; and, sure, I ll tell you," said Old Mickey. 

"And what do they really think?" I asked. 

"Would you ask that man to drive that yoke a 
little further away," said Old Mickey, pointing to 
my chauffeur. "For it s a very conspicuous object 
in front of my door and people will be gathering 
to look at it." 

So I asked the driver to take the car into the 
yard at Sharkey s Hotel, which is at the other end 
of the street, and to wait for me there, where cars 
are not quite so rare as in front of Old Mickey s 
door. 

When he was gone Old Mickey pulled out his 
pipe and crammed some tobacco in and was about 



222 MY IRELAND 

to speak, when a young man came by from some 
work that he had been doing in the fields and went 
to his home further up the street Old Mickey 
paused and watched him until he was out of hear 
ing, and was, I think, about to speak again, when 
we saw another young man approaching us. I 
looked up the road to be sure that we should be dis 
turbed no more when this man had gone by; but I 
saw that it would not be as I had hoped, for behind 
him, straggling along the road at various intervals, 
there were several more. 

"Where are they all coming from?" I asked. 

"Sure, they re coming from their work," said 
Old Mickey. 

"But it s not yet four o clock," I said. 

"It is not," said Old Mickey. 

"Why are they all coming home so early?" I 
asked. 

"Begob," said Old Mickey, "you ve chosen a 
queer day to be out at this hour so far from your 
home. I ll be going in mysetf in a few minutes, 
though I wouldn t mind sitting here for another 
hour at my own door. Aye, a man s all right at 
his own door, when he can slip into the house in a 
moment, and there he is in the lamplight in front 
of his fire, with the door shut and barred, and all 
hell might be loose outside ; but you re a long way 
from your home. And yet in that motor car maybe 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 223 

you d be safe enough, for they d never go near a 
new-fangled thing like that" 

"Who?" I asked. 

"The dead," said Old Mickey. 

"The dead?" I said. 

"And who else?" said Old Mickey. "Who else 
would be out on a Christmas Eve but the dead? 
And you writing a book about Ireland, and you 
don t know that." 

I did know it as a matter of fact, but I had for 
gotten it. I remembered the days when Christmas 
presents given to workmen on that day had to be 
given early, so that they could get to their homes 
by daylight, before the spirits of the departed 
might be about. 

"Sure, those lads have, none of them, motor cars. 
And would they want to be coming home alone in 
the dark with dead spirits nosing after them like 
hounds, and maybe a rush being made at them as 
they go by the graveyard? Begob, they might 
never get to their homes at all." 

"Do they believe all that still?" I asked Old 
Mickey. 

"They do not," said Old Mickey, "and more s 
the pity. But they won t take the risk, for all that. 
Times have changed a lot, and Ireland has am 
bassadors in all the countries of the world; but I 
don t know who there is to protect a young lad 



224 MY IRELAND 

now, if the dead made a set at him, any more than 
there ever was." 

But in a matter like this, where I wish to set 
plain facts before my reader, I thought it better 
to go to the fountainhead, and ask the young men 
themselves who were hurrying home, instead of 
offering Old Mickey s secondhand views about 
them. 

"Good evening," I called to the first of them as 
he came by. 

"Good evening," said he. 

"You re coming home early from work, aren t 
you?" I asked. 

"My mother s wetting the tea early today," he 
said, "and I m coming home for my tea." 

"Why is she making it so early?" I asked. 

"Because she has a good fire going," he said, 
"and if she waited too long it might sink lower and 
not be able to boil the water." 

"Ah, he s only talking," said Old Mickey. 

But I determined to stick to firsthand evidence, 
and called out to the next one that went by, asking 
him the same question. 

"Ah, sure, my work s all done," he said, "so I ve 
nothing more to do, and I m coming home." 

And a third man came by and I asked him the 
same question. 

"Ah, sure, I want to sell a dog to a man," he said, 



A BAD NIGHT TO BE OUT 225 

"and if I wait any longer the man will be gone." 
And he hurried on quickly. 

And when he had gone I asked Old Mickey once 
more the question whose answer I am so anxious to 
place before my readers, and I believe that Old 
Mickey was about to tell me, when yet another 
returning laborer appeared. And then Old Mickey 
rose. 

"Begob," said he, "it would be a terrible night 
to be out." 

And he thanked me for the honor I had done 
him, and went in and shut his door. I never knew 
what fear drove Old Mickey indoors, whether the 
fear of being overheard talking politics, or the 
fear that certainly awed his generation, whatever 
the young men felt, the fear of being overtaken in 
the twilight on Christmas Eve by the dead. 



s 



XXIV 
St. Stephen 



I walked from Old Mickey s house to Shar- 
key s Hotel to get my car ; and there I saw Sharkey 
standing in his back doorway, that looked into the 
yard. We greeted each other. "Do you find people 
about here," I asked, "still having any superstition 
about Christmas Eve?" 

"Ah, that s all nonsense," he said. "Sure, no one 
believes it" 

"Could you tell me the way to the graveyard?" 
I asked. "I wanted to have a look at it." 

"Over there," he said, pointing. 

"The light s not very good," I said, "and I can t 
quite see. Would you mind coming with me to 
show me the way?" 

"Begob," he said, "I would gladly, only I have 
a man in there that I must serve with a drink. 
He ll be bawling for me if I don t go at once. But 
I d be glad to show you any other time." 

And he went into Sharkey s Hotel, and I went to 
my car, and the driver turned up the lights and we 
started for home. As these words will not be in 
print before the spring, I have still ample time to 
get from Old Mickey, on some day when he will 

226 



ST. STEPHEN 227 

have more leisure, the information that is essential 
to this book. So for the present I put the matter 
out of my mind, and came back by a road strangely 
lonely, except for the occasional lights of motors 
rising like sudden dawns, and disappearing as sud 
denly into the night. And sometimes we saw the 
apple-green eyes of small animals surprised by the 
glare of our lamps. 

So we came home; and, at midnight, neighbor 
ing bells rang in Christmas. I do not write of 
Christmas Day, for that is not Irish property, nor 
even European, and we have Christmas cards even 
from Mohammedans upon our mantelpiece here. I 
will write of that if ever a publisher persuades me 
to undertake a book to be called My World. When 
our civilization perishes, will whoever take our 
place remember Father Christmas? Or will some 
heretical sect, with zealous ignorance, put Tom 
Smith in his place? It may well be so, for the 
fragments of palaces and the ruins of old traditions 
are all strange to succeeding ages; so the mortal 
Tom Smith may get mixed up during the next age 
of barbarism with the immortal Father Christmas, 
and even come out on the other side with a pur 
loined immortality. I am not presuming to at 
tribute to posterity any muddle such as we do not 
ourselves often make about those who were mighty 
in Egypt. 

Christmas passed and then came St. Stephen s 



228 MY IRELAND 

Day, and I went to shoot a red bog, for the moon 
was nearly full, making the grass by night all 
white, from our windows. I came to the bog by a 
lane, that ran to a cottage and soon afterwards faded 
away. By the side of the lane was a stile, with 
steps leading up to it made by very large stones; 
but with this stile and the steps the work of man 
ended, but for a tiny field that had once been cut 
from the bog, as one could see from old scars in it; 
and above the field the bog lowered dark and un 
tamed. Let me mention for the sake of those who 
may be unacquainted with St. Stephen, or rather 
with his Day, that it would be a bad day for a 
visitor to start his notes for a book about Ireland: 
such a book might start something like this : "The 
Irish people are very small, and mostly old and 
white-bearded; they have very long noses, and 
cheerful but devilish faces. Their clothes are of 
antique but varying fashions, and their complexions 
are either scarlet or dead white." 

And all this would be the product of accurate 
observation; but no sooner would these notes be 
written than they would require to be amplified 
and amended. St. Stephen s Day would be dis 
tinctly a bad day on which to start a book about 
Ireland. For the wren, the king of all birds 
on St. Stephen s Day, was caught in the furze. 
And in order to celebrate this event Ireland rises 
upon this day in bands, mostly youthful and all 



ST. STEPHEN 229 

disguised, which go from house to house to pro 
claim the traditional truth that I have just divulged 
to the reader. As I write there is a rhythmic boom 
ing of boots upon stone, which tells me that a 
dozen or twenty men with strange faces, and even 
stranger whiskers, who have just danced before me, 
and danced extremely well, are dancing now in the 
servants hall. And this will go on until late. They 
are the third band that have appeared since dinner 
alone, and are much larger than those that an ob 
servant tourist might have seen on the roads all 
day; because the earlier bands are by now in bed. 

When I see them dance my memory goes back to 
dances that we used to have on every St. Patrick s 
Day for all the people on this estate ; dances I first 
attended knowing only London ballrooms. I very 
quickly realized the great difference between the 
two, and that I must be skilfully piloted if I was 
to take any part in these intricate and beautiful 
dances. The Irish dances are still what they were, 
and what they have been for ages, while London 
apes the dances, if such they can be called, of the 
African population of foreign cities. I hope that 
the Irish people will preserve their old dances; 
but a wave of sophistication is sweeping over the 
world, and it is to be feared that a people that 
have already taken to politics may also take to the 
dances that go with jazz. 

I had a long walk over the heather and pink 



230 MY IRELAND 

mosses, and by the edges of square pools, once cut 
for turf, with green moss floating in them, and now 
and then past patches of white grass growing in 
water ; I had a long way to go to get the wind right, 
and most of the snipe that I saw got up while wind 
and sun were wrong, and in addition to that they 
were wild, as they sometimes are when they have 
only just come in, on their quest of the worm that 
the full moon lures to the surface; and I got no 
more than six. It is a strange garden, the red bog, 
and odd things grow there, but not all of them are 
flowers for folk like us, for they seem somehow too 
fungoid for our gardens and even far from our 
world. I noticed beside a patch of heather, on 
which I was sitting for lunch, a pale-green com 
pany of tiny flowers with bright scarlet heads, but, 
lovely though they are, they have no name among 
flowers, belonging to some order of life that gar 
deners do not recognize. And then there are the 
great mosses, seeming to grow brightest wherever 
they have beneath them the greatest depth of water 
or slime. 

I got home in time to find a man in the uniform 
of a policeman, except that he wore the badges of 
rank of a naval lieutenant and a few rows of brass 
buttons ; and another in green tailcoat and brown 
breeches; and one in frockcoat and tall hat; and 
others dressed as diversely. The band had come 
to my door to dance and sing. And one of them, 



ST. STEPHEN 231 

who wore the kit and the general air of a black 
guard on a race course, imitated songs of blackbirds 
and thrushes with astonishing skill. 

I do not think that these bands any longer carry 
and exhibit a dead wren, as they used to : the bird 
used to be chased over the furze earlier in the day, 
until it was too tired to fly any further, when the 
boys would kill it and put its body in a match box, 
and go round with it singing their song in honor of 
the king of all birds. I wonder what they would 
do to the saint himself, if he should return one St. 
Stephen s Day and appear in Ireland. I think it 
would all depend on whether or not he had the 
right religion and politics. 



o. 



XXV 
A Ride to Leixlip 



Sunday I have little to say, for Sunday is 
rather a day of gossip in one s own house and in 
those of one s friends ; and the gossip of my friends 
belongs to them, even where they have permitted 
me to share it, and is not a matter for print, and for 
sale between covers. And Monday has come and 
the full moon with it, and I walked the whole 
length of a red bog, with the wind about right. 
But there was something wrong with the red bog, 
which my gamekeeper put down to the festivities 
of the season, but which I think can be accounted 
for quite as well by a frost that there was over 
night; but, whichever it was, most of the snipe 
had been either scared or frozen out of the red 
bog, and I got no more than four. 

But it is always pleasant, although not easy, to 
walk in this wild and rather unearthly garden. 
About half of our walk was on the low bog, that 
had been cut away during the ages, and where the 
pink mosses, like huge land-sponges, were slightly 
in excess of the heather; and then we came to the 
high bog, climbing up the soft brown precipice 

along the ledges of turf-cutters, where there was 

232 



A RIDE TO LEIXLIP 233 

rather more heather than moss. This ancient and 
undisturbed bog ended in a promontory, cut away 
at both sides, and this narrow portion was all trav 
ersed by cracks like those of earthquake, as though 
the bog, with vacillating mind, had thought to 
move against the turf-cutters, as bogs sometimes 
do, and overwhelm them and their works, and had 
quivered once or twice and then slept again. A 
golden plover sailed over it and a flock of curlews 
rose, but not many snipe. 

At one end of the bog we met a man carrying 
turf in an ass-cart, but the snipe were probably 
used to him; and he naturally chose the drier 
places, and it was not he that had disturbed them. 
Then we came home, past many splendors of 
Norman architecture, and past fields growing mo re 
and more fertile as we came away from the West, 
till we came to the very center of the cattle-trade 
of these islands ; but both it aiid the Norman man 
sions are in ruins. 

The next day was the warmest that we have had 
this month, and I went to shoot another red bog ; 
but there must have lurked at the back of the warm 
wind an icy adversary that defeated it somewhere 
in the wastes of the ether, for soon aiter nightfall 
the moon was glaring on frozen grass, and a smell 
of old leaves burning seemed to drift from a new 
quarter. I got the small bag of nine snipe and a 



234 MY IRELAND 

rabbit, but if the frost lasts it may be more snipe 
than I will get for a while. 

And when the next day came the frost was gone, 
for the strange new wind had brought rain with it 
and washed the frost away, but it was none the 
warmer for that Our Ireland I beg your pardon, 
My Ireland, for that is the subject about which I 
have agreed to write is always cold without our 
southwest wind. I went back to the small marshes, 
which are rather a relief after walking the red bog, 
especially the one I was on yesterday, where every 
step sinks deep into mosses like huge pink sponges, 
and has to be pulled out again; but sport was bad 
today on the black bogs, for it is the season when 
schools are closed, and boys are abroad upon quests 
that no one grudges them. 

On the next day I shot a couple of birds more 
interesting for their variety in the bag than for 
their edible value ; not that they are not eaten, or 
I should not have shot them. It was a couple of 
curlews, birds by no means rare, but not so often 
shot, except along shores, on account of a certain 
knack that they have of avoiding sportsmen. And 
I am glad they have that knack, for their beautiful 
and wild cry when heard far off gives a certain 
romance to the distance, or a strangeness to night. 
I have only shot one other this year, and would 
never shoot many of them, even were the matter in 
my hands, whereas it mainly rests with the curlew. 



A RIDE TO LEIXLIP 235 

And on this day I saw what Is nowhere so com 
mon as to be unworthy of mention, and is so beauti 
ful that one should remember it, even if one did 
not record it, though it happened every day, and 
that is a kingfisher flying along a stream. He was 
an inch or two above the surface of the water along 
a stream that flows into the Boyne, and his blue, 
like the blue of skies shining over some southern 
story, too bright for reality, gave a sudden flash to 
the stream running under a winter s evening. He 
flew up the stream and came to his nest in the bank ; 
and, though the brood will be hatched before this 
book is in print, I will not say any more of his 
lovely flight, for I would do nothing to give the 
least clue as to where his nest may be. 

Then I passed some countrymen, with exactly 
that look in their faces that tells of the hunt being 
near ; but I think it passed just out of sight. Two 
days ago the enemy of us all, or at any rate of our 
chickens, passed in full sight of my windows. It is 
time that the hounds met here. And now I am in 
front of my fire of turf again, thinking of former 
hunts. 

My memory returns to the great hunt that we 
had on March rath, 1904. By the following month 
the hind that we hunted then had come to live in 
my woods ; and I went out to look for her with my 
harriers. After hunting up and down for a while 
she went away and, taking roughly the old line, 



236 MY IRELAND 

made for the Boyne, by whose banks I lost her after 
a point of eight miles. On April 22nd, I tried 
again, but could not find her. Nearly a year 
passed, and on March 4th, 1905, the Wards came 
to look for her in my woods. The hind by then 
had been named after this place, in whose woods 
she liked to live, and was known to everybody as 
Miss Dunsany. They found at once and hunted 
up and down my wood, then to another covert of 
mine and then to two neighbors and back again, 
when suddenly Miss Dunsany went straight away 
southwards. 

As we galloped south we came now and then 
upon fox-coverts that we knew, which served at 
first to tell us where we were. And then we came 
to country that I did not know at all. And sud 
denly there was a town before me and I asked its 
name and was told Leixlip, a town in another 
county. It was a great moment, seeing that town 
and hearing its name. We had done a point of 
thirteen miles, and had been two hours and twenty 
minutes over it, and on this rare occasion Miss 
Dunsany was taken. I rode home by starlight, on 
a horse that I had not often hunted and had not yet 
named; that day I named him Leixlip, and he 
carried me well in many hunts up to the end of 
1912. I think that that is a good way to name a 
horse, for it preserves good memories, and mem- 



A RIDE TO LEIXLIP 237 

ories in which the horse deserves well to have his 
share, 

I named another horse later in the same way, 
from a good hunt that started from a covert of 
mine called the Hill of Glane, the same covert 
from which Miss Dunsany went when she left the 
wooded land and went away to County Kildare; 
but on this occasion I named the horse from the 
hither end of the run and called him Glane. We 
had had the Meath Hunt hall at my house the 
night before and the woods near the house were 
blank, the foxes probably having had the sense to 
know from the smell of gasoline and various noises 
pretty much what was going on. The Hill of 
Glane, however, held a fox, and soon we were 
leaving the view to the north and west behind us 
and riding through smaller fields away from the 
high ground, till we came to boggy land, and a 
stream called the Derrypatrick river. Jumping 
the Derrypatrick river and crossing more boggy 
land, we came to larch-woods and checked. 

It was a good hunt up to Culmullen, which was 
where we were now; but the Hill of Glane was the 
end of the hunt as well as the beginning, for, when 
the fox was viewed away from Culmullen, he went 
straight back again, and we hunted him back, 
though not so fast as we had come, over the old 
line of fences, through wider gaps, and so came 
back to Glane. A year later we had the ideal 



238 MY IRELAND 

morning after a hunt ball, for we found at once in 
a wood near the house, and, riding practically from 
the door of the ballroom, went over the Hill of 
Glane, straight through the covert, and, taking just 
the same line as the year before, we came to the 
same small fields ; and, remembering some particu 
larly difficult fences that lay to the right, I kept to 
the left this time and found the going better, al 
though there was much jumping. 

We came to a house built on a mearing fence, 
which seemed to have no approach whatever from 
our side, as though it had no intercourse with any 
one to the north of it. When we got round this 
house the fences were easier, though I had one fall. 
And we left the house behind us and came again to 
the boggy land, and to the Derrypatrick river, 
which we forded this time. And instead of stop 
ping at Culmullen or turning back, he went straight 
on, and we came to country I did not know so well. 
Then I let the horse canter very slow for a while, 
as he had been a bit blown by his fall. And so I 
got him to the end of the hunt, though he fell again 
at the last fence ; and a real good hunt it was. 

Soon the Dunsany outlier, as she became from 
this on, was enlarged again by the Ward and I saw 
another good hunt. This was at the end of March, 
1905. And on the xyth of April, I was looking for 
her in one of my woods with my harriers, and 
found her and hunted her up and down a bit and 



A RIDE TO LEIXLIP 239 

then she went away eastwards, and we had a good 
hunt for an hour and five minutes ; and, like many 
others, we were unable to take her. 

Back she came again to my wood the same eve 
ning, which she usually did when hunted; and the 
country people got quite used to seeing her trotting 
home here after a hunt; and they came to have a 
pride in her ability to outwit men and hounds, and 
used to say that she would never be taken. Five 
days later I hunted her again. And this time she 
took the old line to the Boyne, and after fifty min 
utes without a check we left her out beyond Trim, 
and, as my hunting diary records, took hounds 
home to rest for the summer. 

I saw three more hunts with the Ward after the 
famous outlier; and Mr. Percy Maynard, the mas 
ter of the Ward, promised to give me her head 
whenever she died. And some few years went by, 
and a cavalry regiment at the Curragh that had a 
pack of harriers found her and hunted her in 
County Kildare ; and the great curse of a hunting 
country, which is barbed wire, was too much for 
her, and she ran into some and was badly injured 
and killed ; and the master of the harriers sent her 
head to a Dublin taxidermist to be set up. 

I had almost forgotten Percy Maynard s promise, 
but he had not; and he went into the taxidermist s 
shop and, bothering more about his promise than 
any legal rights, got hold of the head and sent it to 



2 4 o MY IRELAND 

me. And here it hangs on a wall, in the house 
where I write ; it is crowded out by better-looking 
heads and hangs where few see it ; it is getting old 
too, and was rather torn by wire when first it ar 
rived; and to few of those that do see it does its 
name on an ivory plaque convey anything now. 
Once hundreds of men and women rode hundreds 
of miles behind that head, when it bobbed over 
Meath and as far as Kildare. It helps to keep 
bright memories from quite fading away, and sink 
ing among dead thoughts ; and soon the moth in the 
fur, and time among the old memories, will sweep 
head and remembrance away. 



XXVI 

Diving with the Ward 

VJ NE must not write of hunting in Ireland with 
out any mention of the culminating rite that brings 
all fox-hunters together, which is the Hunt Ball. 
There you will see every member of the Hunt; and 
not to be present then, if you belong to the Hunt, 
is to be thought dead. On such occasions the light- 
blue facings of the Meath may be seen varied by 
the white facings of their neighbors the Kildare, 
the French-gray facings of their northern neigh 
bors the Louth, and the black collar and white 
facings of the Westmeath, with the single fox on 
the left lapel ; all these facings, of course, on red 
coats. And if anyone ask a member of the West 
meath why his lapels do not match, or whether he 
has lost a badge, he or she will find the answer 
lurking, all ready to leap out, that the Westmeath 
only hunt one fox at a time. 

The brilliant green facings of the United, from 
Cork, are likely to be seen too, and one or two 
hunt coats each from perhaps twenty different 
packs from anywhere in England or Ireland. At 
about midnight comes supper; and in the small 
hours, not before stars are almost beginning to 

241 



242 MY IRELAND 

pale, the bright gathering dances to the ritual tune 
of the fox-hunter, "Do ye ken John Peel." After 
that the National Anthem, and loyal fox-hunters 
singing "God Save the King" as well as they can, 
and then a few who-whoops, that should surely 
warn the foxes in coverts all round that for the 
next few hours their coverts had better be blank ; 
and the sound of motors troubles the night, and 
gasoline mixes with the vapors of dawn. 

The meet next morning is usually at twelve, in 
stead of eleven, so as to give some chance of getting 
two or three hours sleep; and nothing is more 
pleasant then than a run from the first covert, to 
bring the wind of the morning into eyes still a little 
sleepy. 

Younger men will hardly believe me when I tell 
them that up to a few years ago there were men 
who were able to dance at a Hunt ball with no 
more stimulants or narcotics than perhaps a couple 
of glasses of champagne at supper and a single 
cigarette. 

As much as the facings of the hunt-coats vary, so 
varies the country that the different packs hunt. 
Louth to the north of us, on the other side of the 
Boyne, is full of little hills, sometimes with gorse- 
coverts on the top of them and often with glimpses 
of the sea, like a dazzling frame round a picture. 
Then comes Meath, with its big fields and great 
blackthorn hedges, which I used to think were our 



DIVING WITH THE WARD 243 

principal hindrances to hunting, when they rose to 
twenty feet high along the deep ditches, and had 
few gaps in them ; but of late years they have been 
very much cut. Those big fields, so splendid for 
galloping, are being cut up too ; but the good turf 
remains, and the only real enemy is wire. We have 
very few hills like those of Louth, except at the 
north of the county; and in Ireland little hills 
and lakes seem to begin as you turn northwards 
from Leinster. Our neighbor on the south is Kil- 
dare, our principal rival, so that it used to be said, 
with the names of the hunts in varying order ac 
cording to who told the story, that Kildare men 
might be heard saying: "Show me a Meath man 
till I lep on him." 

The great plains of Kildare are as good for rid 
ing as the big fields of Meath : the ditches of Kil 
dare are, I think, not quite so cavernous as ours, 
and I used to notice more narrow-banks in Kil 
dare; in fact I hardly knew them until I met them 
there; though now they are building them fast in 
Meath. The great occasion of the Kildare hunt is 
Punchestown races, which we do not pretend quite 
to equal with any races we have in Meath. Between 
Meath and Kildare, and extending far into both, 
lies the country of the Ward Staghounds. These 
have some of the finest of the Meath country to 
hunt over, and some of the very deepest ditches ; in 



244 MY IRELAND 

fact I do not know of any very much deeper than 
those about the Bush Farm, near Fairyhouse. 

Once hunting there with the Ward I got into 
one of these ditches, and I distinctly remember the 
water darkening as I went down. I hit the bottom 
and rose again to the surface, and my impression 
that this had taken some time was corroborated by 
an Irish judge on the top of the bank who told me 
that he was just about to get off his horse to go to 
my assistance, when he saw one of my hands come 
up. The job of getting my horse out, of course, 
took a good deal longer than it did to climb out 
myself. One should note that this was not a river, 
but just an ordinary ditch ; and we have many like 
them in Meath. This is the country in which often 
in spring, and indeed before one had thought that 
winter was over, one comes on the sudden flash of 
patches of crocuses, mauve and orange and white, 
as one gallops past small lawns when the hunt is 
heading for Dublin. 

Fairyhouse is the Mecca of the Ward Hunt 
There they all meet on Easter Monday and have 
their famous races, and soon after that they have 
their last meet of the season, sometimes over a 
country strewn with the bottles and orange-peel of 
the day before. I have never ridden that course on 
a race-day, but I once rode it with the Meath, 
when we killed a fox in front of the Grand Stand. 
If there had been one prophet living in all Ireland, 



DIVING WITH THE WARD 245 

I should think those seats could have been filled at 
a good price. 

The Ward are hard riders, many of them out 
from Dublin for their one day s hunting in the 
week, or at the most two, for the Ward only hunt 
on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the gallop just 
after the hounds have been laid on, for its close 
ranks and its casualties, has sometimes the look of 
a cavalry charge. 

Another neighbor of this country is Wicklow, 
but beautiful though its mountains are, brooding 
like sleepy giants over the sea, and its many fine 
demesnes, it has not the perfect pastures of Meath 
and Kildare, and the hunting of this county is done 
by harriers. To the west of us the glorious quest 
of the fox s brush is taken up by the Westmeath, 
which has not our wide green fields, and it is there 
that one begins to get the hint that Ireland is 
mainly made of different soil from that of other 
countries, and one sees the beginnings of that great 
bog that, with few interruptions, goes bright with 
heather and mosses westwards to Galway, the coun 
try of loose stone walls, where the Galway Blazers 
have to hunt their fox along the edges of bogs and 
do what they can to stop him from crossing unride- 
able country, a country too that struck me when 
first I saw it as having more fine castles than any 
other county I knew, but all in ruins, as though 
some great people had assailed the bog with their 



246 MY IRELAND 

culture and tried hard to plant it there, and the 
bog had won. 

North of this line from Westmeath to Galway, 
foxes have a better chance of eating their poultry 
undisturbed ; but south lie many good pastures and 
many good packs, King s County for instance, 
hunted by the Ormond, whose gorse coverts on 
hills I remember, and loose stone walls, and whose 
Master told me once that for some years he had 
managed, with the help of a pack of beagles which 
he took out on Sundays, to hunt seven days a week. 
And south of this lies the good Kilkenny country, 
where they have stony narrow-banks, as well as 
stone walls, and besides the Kilkenny Hunt there 
used to be a pack of harriers at Bessborough in 
this county; but they have burnt Bessborough. 

And their neighbors are the Tipperary, a county 
with good pasture for galloping, except where the 
bogs begin, and with ranges of hills frowning down 
on it, and sometimes big woods. But if I followed 
that elusive creature the fox in imagination all 
over Ireland, there would be no end to it, for the 
pursuit of him in one county alone can be, and 
often is, the occupation of a lifetime, and foxhunt 
ing in my opinion deserves a place, with the graver 
more serious professions, among the great illusions 
of man. 



XXVII 
Magic 

WAS shooting coverts today, for the wind has 
shifted round to the west, or even a bit to the north 
of it, and the woodcock might be coming into the 
woods, though the snow that drives them there has 
not yet come. As I stood by the side of one covert 
a robin came up to look at me, and I looked at the 
robin, and we each seemed to be quite friendly to 
one another ; and then the thought occurred to me : 
what will the robin think of me if he sees me kill a 
woodcock? It may seem a trivial matter to record 
in a book; and yet the elements of it are like this: 
supposing you were dining with a lady in a restau 
rant, who did not know you very well but who 
seemed to like you, and supposing you suddenly 
beat in the skull of a waiter with a bottle and he 
fell dead at her feet; might not you lose the lady s 
confidence? I felt like that about the robin. But 
when the woodcock did come I forgot about the 
robin altogether, so that I cannot say what that 
bird thought of it 

With pheasants and woodcock and pigeons to 
day s bag has varied the larder, in which snipe 

were too predominant, though I got a widgeon the 

247 



248 MY IRELAND 

other day. Widgeon are rare so far inland as this, 
except by the lakes; though we sometimes hear 
their whistle along the Boyne, and it was on the 
Boyne that I got him. 

When I came in from shooting today to lunch 
indoors, which I do when shooting the woods, we 
had lunch at one forty-five instead of our usual one- 
thirty; and just after one-thirty I heard a very 
indignant caw from a rook under the window, that 
was quite obviously a protest against the lateness 
of lunch, a matter that he was interested in because, 
in very hard weather, we used to throw out food 
for the birds, and it became a habit, and the rooks, 
who probably need it least, set the most store by it 
and after them the jackdaws. In rather the same 
way, if anyone s child is sick, and one gives it milk 
from the larder, or one s grandfather did in his 
time, the child will still get the milk every day, 
long after its beard is white ; and, if the custom is 
not stopped then, it becomes a right in the child s 
family. And I ve known the same thing happen 
with medicine. 

And medicine suggests, though doctors might 
deny any connection, the strange cures that certain 
men throughout Ireland have for various maladies, 
old prescriptions handed down a long time in their 
families, and compounded of herbs. And some are 
made of stranger things, such as the fat of eels, that 
the wizard roasts in the patient s presence. Some 



MAGIC 249 

of these cures depend upon faith, firmly grounded 
in magic, others on the genuine beneficence of 
herbs. 

For a moment once I thought that some of the 
better ones, of which I had heard, ought to be put 
on the market and widely sold. But reflection 
taught me that a man who cured twenty patients 
or so in a year could not make the medicine for a 
million or so ; and, when advertisement had made 
the demand, the supply would be manufactured by 
other hands and of other ingredients ; and a blinder 
and stronger faith than the one engendered by 
watching the stewing of eels would mislead mil 
lions into supposing that the stuff was doing them 
good, and would enrich men far from Ireland. 
Let no man who believes in the hoardings, till he 
is angry if anyone doubts them, dare to deride the 
man who stews eels in front of his patient and uses 
their fat to cure deafness. 

Wise men, wise women, holy stones, the drip of 
water on tombs, and much more besides, provide 
the magic that effects the cures. Some years ago 
there was a flare-up in the reputation of some holy 
stones about eighty miles from here; and the hus 
band of a woman so crippled with rheumatism that 
she could not turn over in bed without friends to 
turn her, asked for the loan of my motor to take 
her to the holy stones to be cured. A hundred and 
sixty miles in a motor for such a case seemed haz- 



250 MY IRELAND 

ardous ; yet, when a hopeless case suddenly has a 
strong hope, one thinks twice before crushing it, 
and I lent the motor. 

It was a lonely scene at the holy stones, as I 
heard of it: no one was there but one policeman, 
with his hand on a holy stone. And it was one of 
the times when they were shooting policemen. The 
conclusion of this story is only hearsay, but I heard 
that when the woman came back she was walking 
about the house. Yet the power of the holy stones 
waned in a few days, or the woman s faith weak 
ened, or the rheumatism was too strong ; certainly 
there was a relapse. 

Holy wells do good work in this country too. 
There is one not a mile from my door. And a 
neighbor, when I was young, or a little before my 
time, was traveling in the Holy Land, and lost his 
hunting-crop there. I have often heard the story. 
And I think he prayed to St. John, whose well it is, 
for the return of his hunting-crop. But, at any 
rate, he came home and found his hunting-crop 
lying at the bottom of the holy well. Being an 
educated man he made the mistake, as it seems to 
me, of explaining the miracle, his view being that 
there must have been an underground current run 
ning from Palestine into this part of County Meath, 
along which his hunting-crop must have drifted. 
I think that this was a mistake, because we cannot 
say what a miracle might or might not be able to 



MAGIC 251 

do ; but we can say, as definitely as we can say any 
thing about geology, that the river under the Irish 
Sea, ajnd a few other seas, is impossible. In any case 
why should a miracle be taken away from St John 
and thrown on to the back of Science, even if 
Science were able to carry it? 

And then there are stones that work curses in 
stead of cures, of which I think the Blarney Stone 
is the worst For the kissing of that stone will 
make you a rhetorician; and, when one thinks of 
all the harm done by political speeches, one must 
regard the stone as being among those many cases 
in which Man gets no good in the end by any traffic 
with magic. 

Lest any who may credit me with an imagination 
should think I am using it here, let me say that it 
is all the other way about; for the country is full 
of mystery and abounding in tales of magic, and 
the people are inclined to be secretive even to those 
to whom they are friendly, and I do not know one 
in a hundred of the tales of magic they tell ; and 
those to whom they are not very friendly would 
never hear one at all. And, were my imagination 
not always kept on its chain by reason, I could tell 
a very magical tale myself. But reason says it was 
only a strange coincidence. 

The facts of the tale are these: I had been work 
ing on a book called The King of Elf land s Daugh 
ter, and I had just finished a long chapter, in which 



252 MY IRELAND 

all the chief characters were will-o -the-wisps. I 
had described them rising out of a bog at night, 
and told what they did. And that night I went to 
sit for geese out in the middle of a bog not far from 
here. And the will-o -the-wisps came to me. I 
saw them there for the first time in my life ; but I 
did not imagine that they had come to call on me, 
lured by my long thoughts of them. The bog was 
frozen and my footsteps had gone through the ice, 
so that gases from the decay of age-old reeds had 
no way out except through those holes made by my 
boots. Consequently they were a thousand times 
more concentrated than when they could rise from 
the whole of the bog s surface; and, if ever they 
were to shine, they shone then. A herd who lived 
half a mile away on the dry land was waiting for 
me at the edge of the bog when I came out by 
starlight, and I asked him about the lights, which 
he also had seen. It might be some kind of a flare, 
he thought, lit by some man to find his way. 

"But what would he be doing out on the bog at 
that hour?" I asked. 

And he had no answer to that. 

"Mustn t it be a will-o -the-wisp?" I said. 

"Ah, I don t believe in Jack-o -Lanterns," he 
answered very quickly. 

For he was afraid of the lore of his youth, while 
his contemporaries were clutching at new-fangled 
ideas. He thought that a Jack-o -Lantern was a 
leaping imp, carrying a lantern over the bog, but 



MAGIC 253 

that he ought not to believe in him. When he saw 
that I did believe in will-o -the-wisps, he forsook 
them no longer. 

"They do be all over the bog/ he said; "and in 
spring it s terrible." 

Yesterday I went some way to the northeast, 
looking for golden plover, till I was not far from 
the sea ; and all of a sudden I saw them going over, 
but high out of shot and looking small like snipe. 
I stopped the car to watch them, and just there by 
the roadside was a thatched cottage I knew; and 
the dog that looked after the house seemed to re 
member me, though I had forgotten the dog; and 
he came up to me very friendly. And then I saw 
that it had lost one eye, and that the socket was in 
a terribly bad condition. The man who lived in 
the cottage was a friend of mine, and I felt that I 
knew him well enough to interfere on behalf of 
his dog. So I went and knocked at the door, the 
dog coming with me, and the man came out to 
greet me, and I asked him if he would take the dog 
to a vet; which he promised to do. 

"How did it happen?" I asked. 

"Sure, a man hit him in the eye with a whip," 
he answered. "And then, when the eye wasn t 
getting any better, Paddy poured some Lysol into 



it" 



"Was Lysol a good thing to put in the dog s 
eye?" I asked. 

"Seemingly not," he said. 



XXVIII 

Cricket 



O. 



*NE field of mine, in between two woods, has 
always a lonely look to me, especially at evening; 
most of all on a fine summer s evening with the sun 
still in the sky. For it is a cricket-field, and the 
late light of warm days always reminds me of old 
cricket-matches, when the excitement was increas 
ing with every over and the umpires would soon 
draw stumps. Here, since the later years of the 
last century, we used to play cricket through most 
of August and into September, against the cricket 
teams of cavalry regiments from the Curragh and 
battalions quartered in Dublin, as well as the Free 
Foresters, the M.C.C. and other English teams, 
and the Shulers, the Irish equivalent of theZingari, 
and many other Irish teams. With the exception 
of the war we played cricket there right up to the 
time when Parliament passed what they called the 
Treaty, and the resultant troubles made the roads 
too difficult and uncertain for me to be able to 
collect a team. 

During those years all the principal cricketers 
of Ireland played cricket on that ground, and it 
looks lonely without them. David Trotter, who 

254 



CRICKET 255 

played for the Gentlemen of England when they 
were captained by W. G. Grace, made many cen 
turies here; and Bob Fowler, whose defeat of 
Harrow in 1910 made one of the most sensational 
finishes ever seen at Lords, played regularly for 
me for many years: I do not think I ever saw a 
bowler who could catch a ball as near to the bats 
man as he could ; it was almost unsafe to play back 
to him. And there were many splendid players 
whose names would not convey anything to anyone 
outside Ireland; such as Dr. O Keeffe, who played 
regularly for me, and who once when the opposing 
wicket-keeper had an eyebrow laid open, not only 
bound up his head for him, but took his place as 
substitute at the wicket, being one of the two best 
wicket-keepers in Ireland. 

And then there was a friend who used once to 
play football for Ireland, and was equally good 
at cricket I used to think that, whenever he talked 
Irish politics, his hair stood on end and turned red, 
but I fancy now that I must have been mistaken. 
Bowling on the damper Irish wicket, some of those 
who played cricket for me were able to get work 
on the ball that sometimes surprised more experi 
enced English cricketers. One often played all 
the week, including Sundays; but on Sundays it 
was village cricket, cricket played by workmen 
who had no other day on which to play it. There 
was a school of thought in those days that held that 



256 MY IRELAND 

cricket was a form of slavery inflicted on free men 
by a bloody tyrant, but this view was not so widely 
held as to prevent one easily finding twenty-two 
men to play on Sundays, and a much greater num 
ber to watch and have tea in the tent. And they 
played it well and enjoyed it. Only occasionally, 
if there happened to be a political meeting at Tara, 
people cycling along the road to Tara, that passes 
our cricket-ground, might occasionally shout some 
remark such as a free man might throw at a slave 
who might appear to him to be deliberately wal 
lowing in his ignominy; but this rarely occurred, 
and never detracted from the enjoyment of cricket 
When the chains were smitten off the wrists of 
Erin (I speak metaphorically and it is the usual 
way to speak of these things) some of the stigma 
was taken from cricket, and League matches were 
played extensively through the county. There may 
be some who, while expecting Irish political 
thought to be complicated, may not have supposed 
that such complications could ever be brought into 
cricket. For their instruction or amusement I will 
quote a problem that was brought to me as presi 
dent of the County Meath Cricket League. The 
problem was this: the rules of the M.C.C. state 
that a bowler must have one foot behind the bowl 
ing crease. But the committee had detected a man 
who bowled with both feet behind the crease. This 
was clearly a breach of the rule, laid down in black 



CRICKET 257 

and white; and the committee were unanimous 
about it, but appealed to me for the final decision. 
Every now and then you will find perverse men 
who go flat against the opinion of all around them ; 
and on this occasion I was one of them. Many 
similar problems arise from time to time; and I 
hope that cricket may survive them. And I hope 
that they will not develop up to a certain point; 
but I am afraid that, if they do, the M.C.C. will 
be declared a heretical sect 

I used to play also for the Shulers, who wander 
about Ireland, and for County Meath, which used 
to have a magnificent ground in Navan, now gone 
like so much else; and for the Phoenix Park 
Cricket Club, who have a rather small ground, nice 
and easy to hit out of, beautifully situated under 
the Dublin Mountains. I know no lovelier ground 
on which to play cricket. I was playing cricket for 
the Shulers on August 3rd, 1914. I was hospitably 
put up for the night, as Shulers always are, and 
next morning my hostess told a story which I think 
will always remain in my memory. She said that 
at midnight a policeman knocked at the door, ask 
ing to see her husband, a retired colonel, who was, 
I think, a magistrate. She was a little alarmed at 
first about a policeman coming at night, and even 
feared, she said, that something might have hap 
pened to one of the animals up at the farm, but it 



258 MY IRELAND 

turned out that he had only come about general 
mobilization for the Great War. 

A Shuler dressed for his dinner is rather a 
gorgeous sight, while on tour, a sight that the 
Treaty somehow seemed to stamp out, and Na 
Shuler seemed dead for a long time ; but I was very 
glad to hear only a year ago that the old club was 
revived. May it see many centuries, both of runs 
and of years. 

And there was an earlier club of wanderers that 
used to come here to play cricket against us, when I 
was home for my holidays from Eton. It was 
called the Bog of Allen, and they used to drive up 
on a coach, with two poles, each topped with a sod 
of turf from the bog, and with heather growing on 
the turf, and they used to plant the poles by the 
tents when they played, with rather the air of 
Romans setting up their eagles. Yells used to come 
from the coach as they arrived, as a demonstration 
of a certain wildness appropriate to the great Irish 
bog. They said that the Bog of Allen was a hun 
dred miles long; so that there was probably no 
good cricketer in Ireland who was disqualified 
geographically from being a member of that team. 
I do not know if members of the Bog of Allen 
founded Na Shuler, but they seem quite a possible 
origin. 

On this ground as well as on the County ground 
I often played against Colonel Leslie Rome, of the 



CRICKET 259 

XI Hussars, who was the fastest bowler I ever 
batted against He died last year. And, when I 
remember how he played cricket, and indeed 
everyone else with whom I played in those not 
distant days, I feel that far better cricket was 
played in country matches then than is played now 
in test matches. We did not get so many runs, or 
bowl balls so hard to play; but Colonel Rome, 
who could easily have killed any man that he hit 
on the head, never attempted to. That is the essen 
tial difference between our cricket and the best 
cricket of today, if you use "best" in the sense of 
being the most skilful. 

I only once knew Colonel Rome hit any man, 
and that was when he broke two ribs of our Meath 
"pro"; but he never tried for it, and on the con 
trary bowled nearly every ball to the off, so as to 
avoid any such accident, occasionally straying on 
to the wicket to scatter it I have myself seen an 
English bowler at Lords aiming at a man s head in 
a test match, though he missed it by going too high. 
Our obscurer cricket was more sporting, was in 
fact better cricket 

A wind is raging tonight And after getting a 
mixed bag in the morning and afternoon, I sat 
again for duck at the pond to which they flight 
There came the moment, as it always does when 
sitting for duck, when it grew so dark and late that 
one wondered if they were coming at all. And 



260 MY IRELAND 

before they did come it was so dark that I was able 
to leave my hiding-place and sit on the edge of the 
pond. I sat facing the wind ; so that, as they always 
come in against it, they came over my shoulder 
from behind, and I found I got a better view of 
them that way, appearing black against a darken 
ing sky, than any other way I have tried. Few 
came tonight, but I managed to get five. By the 
time two retrievers had gathered them it was quite 
dark, and lights however far off looked cheerful 
welcoming things. And now the cries in the great 
voice of the wind seem stimulating to memory, 
and to memories I am turning. 

And the next memory that comes to me is one 
from a room in this house that is still called the 
Magistrate s Room, because it was to that room 
that prisoners used to be brought by the police, to 
be dealt with by my father and grandfather in their 
capacity as magistrates. Memories come to me 
from this room, because the gun-room lies beyond 
it, so that it is to the Magistrate s Room that I 
always return whenever I come in from shooting. 
And this is the little tale of it that I remember: 
two of the constabulary, armed with rifles, marched 
in a prisoner, and when the constable had to sign 
some paper relative to the man s crime, remarking 
"hold that," he shoved his rifle into the prisoner s 
hand before taking up the pen. I do not suppose 
that this little tale will ever come to the eyes of any 



CRICKET 261 

English statesmen ; they are too busy for that And 
it is too late now, even if it did. So really there is 
no use in my recording it. Let any who please 
smile at that trustful constable, if they should find 
his simplicity funny enough to smile at, and if they 
should feel that they have the right to do so. 



XXIX 

Dublin 

JLESTERDAY I was turning over old memories; 
and today when I set out after snipe I had a 
glimpse of the Dublin Mountains again, smiling 
in pale sunlight, and the sight of them turned my 
memories towards Dublin, once the capital of Ire 
land. Approaching it from the north one may go 
by Castleknock and through the lovely Phoenix 
Park, that seems to flow to the very feet of the 
golden slopes of the mountains, and so one enters 
Dublin along the Liffey, with its granite embank 
ment which seems to treasure the memory of an 
old splendor, that is gone from the houses beside 
it; or one may come in by Sackville Street, now 
given a new name, a street so congested and narrow 
that it was lately said to be necessary to remove 
Nelson s statue and pillar that still stand in the 
midst of it, in order to allow the carts to get by; or, 
for there are two ways of measuring anything in 
Ireland, according to your religion and politics, 
the widest street in the British Isles. 

I give the two measurements because both are 
interesting, and I leave the reader to choose which 

he will accept, according to his religion and poli- 

262 



DUBLIN 263 

tics, or, if he is quite impartial, to go and see for 
himself. At the end by which one enters Sackville 
Street, coming from this direction, one comes first 
to a statue of Parnell and, graved on the pedestal, 
this sentence from one of his speeches, a No man 
can set a limit to the march of a nation." And the 
graven letters are gilded. I trust that should any 
one ever chance to lend this book to a foreigner he 
will first cut out this page ; for, should the above 
idea get loose in Europe, it would be almost sure 
to wreck its civilization. Going down Sackville 
Street and over the Liffey, and through Westmore 
land Street between Trinity College and the old 
Parliament House, that is now the Bank of Ire 
land, and then either up Graf ton Street to Stephen s 
Green or along Nassau Street to the Kildare Street 
Club and Merrion Square, and on to Fitzwilliam 
Square, one passes all the way by houses finely built 
and beautifully decorated, that are evidences of the 
very high level of culture that is now gone. 

Leinster House, once the town house of the 
Dukes of Leinster is, I think, as fine a private resi 
dence as I have seen in any capital, at any rate in 
the British Isles. For the last century it has been 
a museum, and one of its wings was the club house 
and lecture hall of the Royal Dublin Society, 
founded by George II. When the Treaty was 
passed this building was taken by compulsory sale 
from the Royal Dublin Society and was used by 



264 MY IRELAND 

the Irish Senate, the Royal Dublin Society retiring 
to Ball s Bridge, where they hold the Dublin Horse 
Show. How beautiful are those lines of the Irish 
poet, Oliver Goldsmith : 

The man recovered of the bite, 
The dog it was that died. 

Those who miss the splendors of the Vice-regal 
box and the entry of the Lord Lieutenant in his 
carriage, and his drive round the ground with 
postilions, and all that these things brought in their 
train to Dublin, say that the Dublin Horse Show 
is a thing of the past, and even avoid the show 
ground, content with their memories of the days 
of Lord Dudley, and regretting that nothing like 
them will come again for a long while ; but others 
say that the horses are as good as ever they were 
and the jumping in the ring as good to watch as 
any that ever was ; and they are right. 

And, after all, the principal object of going to a 
Horse Show should be to look at the horses ; so why 
not do that and never mind what is lost? In the 
jumping ring, besides the water jump and the tim 
ber that one would find in all such show grounds, 
there are fences that are particularly indigenous, 
such as the stone wall, and the big bank of an Irish 
double. Last year four officers from four different 
cavalry regiments came over and competed in the 
jumping ring with an Irish team of four, and two 



DUBLIN 265 

or three foreign teams, and the result was as fine 
a display of jumping as one is likely to see any 
where in the British Isles. The Horse Show is not 
the only show held at Ball s Bridge by the Royal 
Dublin Society, for we exhibit cattle and sheep 
there too ; but it is much the best known one. 

There are in Dublin three theater companies; 
which, in order of their seniority, arc? the Abbey 
Theatre, the Gate Theatre, and the Longford 
Players. In a way the Gate Theatre might be 
called the child of the Abbey Theatre, and the 
Longford Players the child of the Gate; but the 
metaphor is a bad one, and one would better con 
vey the relation between them by saying that the 
Longford Players were a heresy broken off from 
the Gate, as the Gate was heretical to the Abbey. 

The Abbey, which is about as old as the century, 
derived its sustenance from the munificence of the 
late Miss Horniman. Others helped, but no one 
should speak of the Abbey without remembering 
her name, for without it there would have been 
no Abbey to speak of. Miss Horniman must have 
been not merely generous, but she must have seen 
with considerable insight the possibility of a new 
kind of drama arising far from cities, or at any 
rate free of the influence of cities, which was at that 
time gripping the drama very tightly. Supporting 
her vision materially, she endowed the Abbey, and 
that vision became a reality. 



266 MY IRELAND 

So much for the Abbey Theatre s material side; 
but the theater had not been going long, when there 
came to it an inspiration that gives it a place above 
the Gate Theatre or the Longford Players: this 
inspiration was Synge. His material was the talk 
of the Irish peasantry, and one does not have to 
examine his plays very closely to find three prom 
inent ingredients : poetry; humor, rather grim; and 
satire. The first two of these are so inherent in 
the diction of the Irish people that one cannot at 
once distinguish between raw material and work 
manship, as sometimes in jewelry the curve of a 
large pearl will be used untouched, by a jeweler, 
for the shape of a figure of which it forms a part 
As for the satire, when first a Dublin audience saw 
Synge s Playboy of the Western World, instead of 
regarding satire as one of the spices in a work of 
art, they concentrated their attention on it and 
booed the play. It was rather as though you offered 
a plate of roast beef, with all necessary vegetables 
and condiments, to someone not quite familiar with 
them, and as though he started his meal on the 
mustard, and were sick. 

But in course of time Irish audiences got over 
the bitter taste, and came to enjoy the play. This 
play was followed by Riders to the Sea, The 
Shadow of the Glen, and others; and, when we lost 
Synge in 1908, he had left dramatic work that blew 
fresh on the theater, as though someone in a scene 



DUBLIN 267 

in a drawing-room comedy had opened the window 
to air blowing fresh over cornfields. This breeze 
affected to some extent the whole contemporary 
theater, and, for the Abbey Theatre, remained an 
inspiration; but too soon the inspiration wore a 
groove, and the grim mood of Synge turned towards 
sordidness, when his pen was in other hands ; and 
many subsequent plays were written, not only for 
the Abbey, with Synge s material but without his 
inspiration. This was forced on my attention some 
ten years after Synge s death, when I saw a play in 
a theater in Londonderry and was introduced after 
wards to the manager; and, being more critical 
than tactful, said something about the play being 
" Synge and water." To which the manager an 
swered: "Who is Synge ?" 

And talking of Northern Ireland I believe that 
Kipling was Irish on his mother s side; and only 
a few days ago I happened to be reading one of his 
poems called "The Gift of the Sea." When telling 
of the power of Synge to those who did not know 
him I used nearly always to quote the great ending 
to his Riders to the Sea, when the woman whose 
last son is drowned, triumphantly says that the sea 
can do no more harm to her now. And what should 
I see, when I read Kipling s poem the other day, 
but this, the second verse : 

But the mother laughed at all. 
"I have lost my man in the sea 



268 MY IRELAND 

And the child is dead. Be still," she said, 
"What more can ye do to me?" 

The very idea that makes the apex of Synge s 
play! This poem was written before 1896. I do 
not wish to belittle Synge because a single gem in 
his jewelry was cut by another man. But I think 
Kipling should have the credit of that particular 
gem. 

Although many subsequent writers have worked 
the same mine as Synge, which is, as I have said, 
the natural talk of the Irish peasant, I think that 
Synge threw up most ore in each spadeful. And 
this is the reason that I have chosen him as repre 
sentative of the Irish playwrights of this century. 
I used to think that Lady Gregory probably took 
notes of amusing things that were actually said by 
Irish people ; and her plays had to me the appear 
ance of containing large pieces of real conversa 
tion. But Synge seemed to me to be more in touch 
with their thought. If I am right in this, then 
their methods of workmanship would be exactly 
opposite: Lady Gregory would hear some witty 
remarks, and one would expect her to write a play 
to contain them ; whereas Synge, inspired by some 
dramatic idea, would set out to make his play, 
using the talk of the people to do it, much as an 
architect would plan to build a house first, and 
would afterwards buy bricks for the building of it. 



DUBLIN 269 

The Abbey Theatre also turned out many fine 
actors, and if I choose one as representative of 
them, it will be Fred O Donavan, partly because of 
his acting of a part more than twenty-six years ago 
which is very vivid in my memory yet And Miss 
Sara Allgood and her sister, Miss Maire O Neill, 
are two magnificent actresses. 

I might devote many chapters to the other play 
wrights who wrote, and who still write, for the 
Abbey Theatre, for the Gate and the Longford 
Players, but this book has an even more serious 
purpose, which is to tell what Irish people really 
think of the government of Ireland by two new 
parliaments. The thought of this purpose comes 
over me sometimes suddenly like a shadow, and I 
realize now that this book is far on its way and 
that I must devote myself at once to the essential 
part of it It almost troubles me to remember that 
Old Mickey has twice failed to give me the impor 
tant information I sought from him ; and, though 
I feel perfectly sure he will do it yet, I went over 
today to see that neighbor with whom I had already 
discussed the matter. 

"What s the matter?" he said. 

"It s about that book of mine," I replied. 

"Can t you get on with it?" said he. 

"You see, there s only one thing that will really 
matter to people who read it," I said ; "and that is 
what I told you before." 



270 MY IRELAND 

"Yes, I know/ 7 he said. "What the people really 
think about it all." 

"Yes, and you told me," I answered. "But I 
wish you d let me quote you. It would save me a 
long journey to see that old fool Old Mickey, who 
won t speak unless he s sure that nobody s listen 
ing." 

"No, you can t quote me," he said. "And it 
wouldn t be the least what they want if you did." 

"They ll want to know the truth," I answered. 

"That s the last thing they want," said he. "I ll 
tell you what they want, and you d better give it to 
them." 

"Well, some of them want one thing," I said, 
"and some another, according to what particular 
politics they are addicted to." 

"Not at all," said he. "They both want the same. 
And you give it them as I tell you. The Irish have 
got what they wanted and clamored for. Won t 
they want you to make it out the finest thing in the 
world? Of course they will. They d look like 
bloody fools otherwise. And the English gave 
them the Free State. If that was the cleverest 
thing that the English ever did, won t they want all 
the credit for it? And mind you I m not saying 
that it wasn t. But if it should turn out to be the 
damnedest silliest thing they ever did in their lives, 
will they want you to be reminding them of that? 
It stands to reason they won t They d want you to 



DUBLIN 271 

help them to forget it; or leave them alone to do 
that for themselves. And if you can t leave them 
alone, just say that it was the cleverest thing ever 
done. But don t go and babble the truth to them : 
what would they want that for?" 



XXX 

A Conversation in London 



A.NC 



TOTHER day has come, making my memories 
that much further off, and the north wind is blow 
ing; and looking in the direction of the Dublin 
Mountains, I saw a range of silvery clouds, slightly 
gilded, all in the shape of mountains. I was motor 
ing as I saw the shining range, and at first saw noth 
ing solid amongst its peaks, and then at one end of 
the gilded crags I saw the bulk of one earthly 
mountain very dark: it was one of the Dublin 
Mountains. How they have changed since yester 
day! And later in the morning the north wind 
pushed the shining clouds away, and I saw all the 
mountains clearly. Their heads and shoulders 
were still dark as night, but between them and the 
earth were shining lines, and slopes of hazy silver. 
How they have changed ! And if those mighty 
elder children of Nature can change in Ireland 
like that, how should one look for stability in the 
moods of the people that play at their feet? Yet it 
is one of these moods that I wish to tell of, the 
political mood, and soon now I must go and find 
it out from Old Mickey, and then close this book. 

For I disagree entirely with my friend who said 

272 



CONVERSATION IN LONDON 273 

that my readers will not want the truth. They 
need not read the book, but, if they do, they will 
want to know just what the people think about so 
vital a thing as our new political system. And this 
Old Mickey will tell me. 

The ether has just been throbbing with the "Lon 
donderry Air," played in Belfast. And suddenly, 
after having written so many pages of this book, I 
wonder if the very essence of Ireland might not be 
found more surely in music than amongst all the 
material things which I have lately been trying to 
analyze. The "Londonderry Air" is very widely 
known now, but there was a time when I heard it 
very rarely ; and all I knew of it was that Colonel 
J. K. McClintock (peace to his ashes), who com 
manded one of the battalions of the Royal Innis- 
killing Fusiliers, had copied it down from a manu 
script preserved by an old Irish lady. It is one of 
those airs of unknown origin, that drifted down the 
ages through Irish valleys. There is a great yearn 
ing in it, and a crying out for something so beauti 
ful, that it will not be found in this world ; and the 
ancient singer who made it seems to be mourning 
with all his heart because it will not be found. 

If Irishmen had a continent to play with, or even 
any large country, they would soon lose that dream 
and, instead of yearning for the inaccessible, be 
content with the second best or the third best or 
even with Tammany. But they are in a land re- 



274 MY IRELAND 

mote from the world s affairs, a land under clouds 
so thick and so far away to the north that the 
Romans called it winter. Their dreams have to 
suffice them, just as gold might have to suffice men 
In a land that had no copper. Green fields, castles, 
politics and old stones, of which I have told in 
these pages, are far from the real Ireland. 

The real Ireland is a land of dreams. It is for 
the sake of the dream that we send ministers to 
Poland and Ruritania, for the sake of the dream 
that we have a Minister of External Affairs, and 
keep an army. And if we are not looking at the 
stars as we walk, or looking for them at broad noon, 
we are looking back over our shoulders at what has 
gone ages since, and peering back even further 
through the mist and the haze of Time, to see 
bright and clear in the radiance that shines from 
our vivid dreams the kings and the heroes of days 
that never were. And that we shall part with last 
of all. No nation shall take from us our myths 
and our fables ; no man shall proVe that our demi 
gods did not live: we would as soon give up St. 
Patrick as give up the snakes he expelled. And 
why? Because St. Patrick was real, and can look 
after himself. 

But the Irish snakes never lived, and so they 
need our support. They need it, and they shall 
have it In stone and on parchment and on what 
ever craftsmen can ornament, long snakes with 



CONVERSATION IN LONDON 275 

crocodiles jaws make our favorite design. In Eng 
land men are proud to protect the weak, but that is 
scarcely knightly enough for us: we protect the 
non-existent. While an Irishman lives to defend 
them no phoenix will die, no leprechaun, no fairy. 
And as for our ancient kings and the gods of old 
and the demi-gods, to them our allegiance goes out ; 
and we are less likely to forsake one of them for 
anything modern, than for the discovery of some 
still older Irish demi-god. If a man s family has 
fought for James II, that stamps him politically; 
yet if he wishes to be taken seriously he must have 
some older leanings than that, and show an interest 
in kings and heroes who have a need of his interest, 
because, except for our singing of them and dream 
ing of them and arguing about them, they were 
never really there. 

What colony has England ever founded like 
ours? America she may feebly instance. There is 
nothing in that: America was there already, and 
her people had merely-to set foot on it, and do a bit 
of fighting when they got there, to kill off its right 
ful owners. What is that compared to Hy Brasil, 
the continent in the Atlantic? That is one of our 
colonies. We not only discovered it, but we imag 
ined it and invented it. If we want another victory 
besides the hundreds won by our demi-gods, we 
can sing of another tomorrow. And nothing that 



276 MY IRELAND 

historians can record of the deeds of any of you 
can equal what our singers will say of ours. 

Historians! What can they do? They need 
material for their work, and can do nothing with 
out it Our singers can glorify us without our do 
ing anything. And a finer tale they make than 
any one of your histories. Let us sit and smoke our 
pipes in front of our doors, and let singers tell of 
our glories, and we will not envy Napoleon plant 
ing his fleur-de-lys on the walls of Troy, or wher 
ever he did achieve his laborious victories. And in 
any case what was he, only a foreigner? 

I have written of our cattle trade being ruined, 
and just as I am writing this I read today in the 
Press that negotiations about it have been reopened 
in London. The situation is well enough known 
in Ireland, and I only write of it here for English 
readers, who may not as yet quite have compre 
hended the subtleties of it. Semi-officially, then, 
the negotiations are upon these lines: we owe to 
England a sum of about five million pounds on ac 
count of certain land annuities, as has been ad 
mitted here. But to whom shall we pay the debt? 
To the English? Certainly not. What are they, 
only a lot of Angles, Jutes, Saxons and Danes, and 
Normans? And what right had any of them 
that s what we want to know what right had they 
to come to England at all? 

Look at the Danes ! A lot of pilfering maraud- 



CONVERSATION IN LONDON 277 

ing massacring pirates. It was bad enough that 
all these foreigners got England, but for us to pay 
money to them, which is due to the land they stole, 
would only make matters worse. As for any prom 
ise on our part to pay, what about their own prom 
ises? What about Hengist and Horsa? There 
were a pair of Jutes ! They were Jutes if ever there 
were any. And what did they do? They promised 
to help the rightful inhabitants of England against 
the Picts and the Scots. And they turned out to be 
just a common pair of land-grabbers; and they 
took most of England for themselves, a couple of 
Jutish foreigners. And are we going to keep 
promises to people like that? Let them keep their 
own promises first, let them give back England to 
its rightful owners. 

The foreigner who called the English foreigners 
was righter than he knew. They are the most for 
eign lot of foreigners you could find anywhere, the 
scourings of Denmark, Jutland, Saxony and Nor 
mandy. Let them go back to the land of the 
Angles, from which they took their name. But 
they are so foreign that no one knows where it is, 
so that they must always remain foreigners wher 
ever they are. Are we to keep promises to a people 
like that? And then there is the Poynings Act, 
which I have not read, but which has a great deal 
to do with it too. 

This is merely the rough outline of what is today 



278 MY IRELAND 

being discussed in a hotel in London. Naturally it 
cannot be got through in the few minutes in which 
it takes to read what I have written about it It 
will probably take several weeks. These Jutes, 
these pirates from Denmark, these Norman adven 
turers, have not yet understood our argument, and 
have merely bluntly replied by putting a tariff 
against our cattle in order to recover their debt. 
But when they have come to see that they have no 
rights in Ireland to recover any debt and that they 
are only foreigners, having no locus standi any 
where, it is semi-officially said that it is thought in 
well-informed quarters that something will soon 
be done, unless, as may be the case, it should be 
decided otherwise. 



XXXI 

Growing Oats in the Rain 

..GAIN I saw the Dublin Mountains. I went to a 
funeral at Castleknock, and they were draped in 
rainy clouds as though they were mourning. 

One might perhaps watch these mountains every 
day, noting all their changes that frown and smile 
through a year ; and watching, or rather fancying, 
their variability reflected in the moods of the 
people that live on the plain below them. And it 
would not be only fancy, for of soil and climate 
are made the principal graving tools that shape 
the spirits of nations. Indeed I know of no other 
Implements that Destiny employs for this purpose. 
So one might sit and watch those mountains and 
the storms that blow over them, and translate all 
one saw into the common thoughts of the people, 
and so write a better book about Ireland than I 
have been able to do, troubling myself with occa 
sional facts. And the more one goes after figures 
and facts, the further, I believe, is one likely to 
get away from whatever one studies. For no large 
theme is capable of mathematical statement; so 
that the more precise the logic of one s summary, 
the shorter it must have fallen. 

279 



280 MY IRELAND 

For two reasons I have not given the figures of 
the value of our exports and imports for last year ; 
one is I do not know them, and the other is that, 
for the reason I have just stated, they do not seem 
to me worth while finding out. The number of 
pounds that we made or lost one year on the balance 
of exports and imports teaches us nothing: what 
will teach us something, if we can find it out, is the 
nature of the soil of the country, the crops or the 
cattle to which it is best adapted, the weather that 
will help it or trouble it, and the ability and the 
will of the people to work it Neglect these prin 
ciples, and a man in an office in a town will say : 
"Why are there not more oats? Let more oats be 
grown." And more oats will be sown, either in 
unfertile soil, like a bog, or in fertile soil, like the 
land of Meath. 

Such errors may well be made by men who walk 
pavement. And the worst of the two errors is when 
the oats are planted in the fertile soil. For the 
ages have taught that Meath is the place for pas 
ture. The Milesians knew that when they came 
to Tara, and everybody that has lived here since. 
But a townsman can scratch out the wisdom of the 
ages with a single stroke of his pen. We have 
planted oats here in Meath, of late, in the deep 
alluvial soil. And I have had the same report of 
them every year for the last ten. And it goes like 
this: "There was a wonderful crop of oats. The 



GROWING OATS IN RAIN 281 

finest I ve seen. And if it hadn t been for the rain 
that we had in August it would have been the best 
crop ever seen anywhere. It was extraordinarily 
bad luck. It came just at the wrong moment." 

It was not back luck: it only came of ignoring 
eternal things ; and, in comparison with those who 
ignore them, the gambler is wise who backs a horse 
without having troubled to notice the more ephem 
eral matter, as to whether or not it is starting. 
We need only have looked at our deep green grass 
that luxuriates in our fields, to know that the rain 
required to niake it thrive like that would beat all 
our oats flat. They should grow oats in England, 
in the less fertile soil, and we should send them 
cattle from Meath and Kildare. But to do that 
would be tantamount to approving the action of 
Hengist and Horsa, which we have proved to be 
morally wrong. So we grow oats in the rain. 

And don t let Englishmen be too critical of us 
for our preoccupations. I have known some Eng 
lishmen get just as sodden on beer as we do upon 
history. To sit and soak over anything is bad, 
whether it is history, whisky or beer. But, I can 
imagine an Englishman saying, our history is 
mostly false. Well, so is their beer. If they put 
chemicals into their beer, as they do, aren t we just 
as much entitled to put in exciting events to ginger 
up our history? The point is not that the stuffs 
false, but that we sit and soak over it till we get 



282 MY IRELAND 

all fuddled and can t see what is really going on 
in the world, and the Englishman frequently does 
the same with his beer. So what right have they 
to criticize us? Let any nation that has given up 
all drink and drugs of every description criticize 
us freely. But when that happens it will be on 
account of the millennium, and we shall all be 
living then in a perfect world, and we shall give 
up our history and our politics, so that there will 
be nothing for them to criticize. 

But I was speaking of the three things upon 
which our history most depends; the soil, the 
weather, and the will of the people to work the 
first with the aid of, or in spite of, the second. So 
to this I will return. Our soil, in most of Leinster, 
is deep and dark and fertile ; the product of blue 
limestone, that the ages have softened for us, or 
of silt that old rivers have worn for us from the 
rock and laid deep for our pastures. In this, nur 
tured by rain, the grass grows thick and tall, so that 
I have seen fields of hay in Kent that had thinner 
crops when they were fully grown, than our graz 
ing fields have in Meath. And the moisture that 
gives our grass such easy growth gives a certain 
ease to the people : it is not a climate against which 
they have had to struggle. 

Activity, in fact, may be looked for where it is 
needed, in barren fields and on mountains, rather 
than in rich pastures that thrive almost unaided by 



GROWING OATS IN RAIN 283 

man. It is from fertile eastern lands that the word 
Kismet comes, which means that there must be no 
struggle against Fate. The Arabs in their deserts 
use the same word, but they must have borrowed 
it, for they are a conquering people. In Ireland 
we have the equivalent of Kismet, that negation of 
struggle ; and, however turbulent we may appear, 
that phrase is in frequent use and lies deep in the 
Irish spirit. "Ah, it s the will of God, 51 The mean 
ing and application of this phrase never varies ; it 
implies, whenever you hear it, that it is useless to 
struggle against what has been ordained to come, 
and is in fact the last word of resignation. It 
means, for instance if a house has caught fire, that 
the fire would never have come had not God willed 
it ; what, therefore, is the use of tearing down the 
thatch to try and save it, when the house was or 
dained to burn, and must, therefore, burn what 
ever a man may do ? 

But the mild air that gives this ease and that 
makes the soil fertile does not blow over soil so 
easily fructified, in every part of Ireland. Yet still 
that comfortable attitude endures, that easy ac 
ceptance of what Earth has to give to her children, 
even in those parts of Ireland where Earth is a 
poor mother. Perhaps the people recognize, with 
some spiritual intuition, that the intention of our 
southwest wind is friendly; for they see it making 
even the rocks fertile, though with nothing more 



284 MY IRELAND 

useful to man than gorgeous mosses. Even our 
stone walls yield their luxuriant crop, though only 
of ferns, and our ruined towers grow ivy with the 
ease with which fields grow grass. 

Often in Meath or Kildare a field will dip to a 
hollow, and there the rushes grow in the too- 
abundant water that makes the bogs : as one goes 
westwards those bogs increase, and soon one comes 
to the borders of the red bogs, which do not pamper 
man like the fields of Meath, and indeed give him 
nothing except at the point of the spear-like spades 
with which men cut the turf. And it does not 
always even spare his life. Yet even here and 
amongst the stony mountains the Irish people s 
attitude is the same to the Irish earth, the happy- 
go-lucky attitude of a spoiled child to its mother, 
a child that knows that, whether that mother is in 
poverty or well off, no harm will be allowed to 
come near it 



XXXII 

Farewell 



A.NI 



ID now that my book is drawing so near to its 
close, I feel I must go to Tara so as to close its 
pages where I opened them when the pages were 
yet blank. I will go at once. But it is a stormy 
night, with a south wind full of rain, and I could 
see nothing if I went there now. So I must go with 
memory, and look with imagination. Shall I see it 
clear tonight? There is something in the flames 
going up from my fire of turf that makes me think 
that I will. So let us go to Tara. Yes, there is the 
view before me, lit with parish-wide pools of sun 
light, and frowned on by shadows of clouds ; while 
between heaven and earth run hundreds of slanting 
lines of interwoven sunlight and rain. 

To my left hand, looking west, lie the Dublin 
Mountains, that so seldom frown, smiling like 
great benign idols of rather pale gold. Below 
them out of sight lies Dublin, with its beautiful 
Georgian houses, fallen on evil days; but though 
Dublin is hidden from my eye standing on Tara, 
my memories of it are vivid and clear, and these 
memories seem to run and play more than any 
where else in the room where A. E. sat over his 

285 



286 MY IRELAND 

dismal journal, while the fairies of his imagination 
that he had painted walked in elfin glades on the 
walls. Beyond the streets Dublin opens out into 
gracious suburbs, where pleasant demesnes run out 
to the feet of the Dublin Mountains. 

So twenty miles away on my left the land is 
haunted by the memory of a master poet; while ten 
miles on my right lie the woods of Slane, crowning 
the hills that look on Slane Castle and the village 
of Slane, which are hidden, and the memory of an 
apprentice poet haunts these hills, Francis Led- 
widge who died young, having given ample prom 
ise of being, in his different way, one day as great 
as A. E. And in their love of Ireland they were 
already equal. Behind those hills, like the rumor 
of some great army passing unseen, are a few gray 
lines, no more than the hints of mountains. And 
further away to the north, the Mournes rise up, 
communing with the sea. 

Turning again to my left, and following the line 
of the Dublin Mountains, they dip unto green 
fields, and for a while there is no more distance in 
the scene, but familiar neighboring fields, fields 
that my harriers have gone over in old days in and 
out, and here and there small woods. Then dis 
tance appears again in that blue robe of hers, and 
the heads of the Slieve Bloom Mountains that are 
just too solid for clouds; and then the Hill of 
Usnagh alone by itself, with the hint of being 



FAREWELL 287 

draped in blue velvet Then right before me the 
white spire of Trim, and after that, turning all the 
while right-handed, mountains begin to appear, 
roaming away northwest, so many of them that 
imagination can scarcely number their company. 

It is over there at the end of the long line of them 
that kings that died on Tara were carried away to 
be buried among carved stones, that tell their story 
still, but in a language that none of us knows. The 
pale golden ghosts of flames go flickering up from 
my turf fire, as my imagination looks westwards 
from Tara beyond the spire of Trim. 

And now I realize that the time is come to set 
down what, though it will come so late in this book, 
is yet its main purpose, the matter on which I have 
already approached Old Mickey twice. I must go 
now westwards, passing south of Trim and all 
through that blue distance, and find Old Mickey; 
and this time, if anyone should be near enough to 
trouble him with the risk of being overheard, I 
shall merely wait till they are gone, though I 
should have to wait all day. 

The night blew wildly away, and a cold day 
shone in its place, and as soon as I had had break 
fast I set off in my xar for Cranogue, to find Old 
Mickey and to complete this story. Mountains as 
I went lifted their gray heads over the horizon and 
went down again; and, though I was traveling 
towards them, for a long while I saw them no more. 



288 MY IRELAND 

I passed a gipsy encampment that was moving, 
with its bulging green wagons, its thin, tall men, 
dark women and keen-eyed children. They were 
separating as they started, one part going west 
wards, I think to Galway, probably carrying sheets 
of copper, to make stills to be set up in bogs far 
from dry land, to brew whisky by night; and the 
other party seemed heading straight for the border, 
to take the fullest advantage of it, now that the 
purely alien invention of Irish unity, forced on an 
unwilling people by the English, has left our shores 
with them. 

It is a cold day full of rain that was lately snow, 
or that is hovering on the verge of change into that 
lovely substance, but my sympathies and my fancy 
left the comfort of my motor to follow awhile the 
wagons roaming the roads to the North. A boy of 
twelve following one of the wagons went by, whose 
bright and beady eyes I seem to remember having 
seen one day last year. We were each of us practis 
ing our art by the side of a lane ; mine, that of a 
snipe-shooter ; his, begging. He was coming along 
the road with his dark mother when a driven snipe 
went over, and I managed to hit it. "That s the 
finest shot I ever saw in my life," said the boy. Yet 
it was not my art that was so greatly excelling that 
day, but the art of the gipsy, the art of flattery 
neatly administered, like castor oil made tasty with 
spices. The wagons passed with that touch of 



FAREWELL 289 

romance that always seems to go with them, and 
the road was lonelier. Lonely, but bright and 
blue ; for the sky was in its wet surface, as soon as 
the rainstorm passed. We came to wilder country, 
land where little bogs were more numerous, so 
numerous that people had to cross them on their 
way to and fro, and one caught glimpses of little 
passes made over the deeper bits by the trunks of 
birch-trees thrown down, or gorse, or anything that 
came handy. 

The land was getting poorer as we went, and it 
seemed that there was a homelier look in the cot 
tages and farmhouses than there Is in the wealthier 
land, as though people fighting against bog and 
weeds and rock fought hard and had established 
themselves firmly: a sheet of corrugated iron will 
do for a roof in Meath where the soil would lavish 
wealth, were it not for our politicians ; but in the 
harsher land that might starve them they seem to 
have built their citadels strong and to have raised 
their defenses of thatch to defy the weather. Large 
willows covered with ivy seemed to be stalking 
these lands, with great branches outstretched, giv 
ing to all the region an air of wildness, as though 
man s hold were uncertain, and TSFature s more 
ancient children might take his place in the end. 
And the mountains came up again, less blue than 
when seen from Meath ; and donkey carts passed 
us, rambling along the road, carrying loads of turf; 



290 MY IRELAND 

and the scent from the smoke of chimneys was the 
scent of its burning, unforgotten by all that have 
known it; and then the red bog appeared close by 
the road, and I knew that I was getting near to 
Cranogue and the house of Old Mickey. 

I had brought ample provisions with me, for I 
was determined to wait however long might be 
necessary to find Old Mickey undisturbed. And 
then the white walls of Cranogue flashed into sight, 
and there was Old Mickey sitting before his door 
quietly smoking, and not another soul in sight. I 
stopped my car at once and got out there and then, 
and asked my chauffeur to go straight to Sharkey s 
Hotel, for I was determined that there should be 
nothing to interfere with Old Mickey s penchant 
for talking his politics privately. We greeted, and 
there was never a man in hearing. 

And with every courtesy Old Mickey asked what 
had brought me. I explained, for he seemed at 
first to have forgotten the quest of information to 
which I attached such importance for the purposes, 
indeed the main purpose, of this book. And then 
it all came back to him ; but he did not answer at 
once. He took his pipe from his mouth, and shook 
his head, looking grave. And the first words that 
Old Mickey spoke were not in answer to my 
inquiry. 

"Did you hear tell of Mike O Mahony?" he 
asked. 



FAREWELL 291 

"I did not," I said. 

I did not even know the man s name. 

"He was shot," said Old Mickey. 

"Shot!" said I. "How did it happen?" 

"He was found in a ditch a bit west of here," 
said Old Mickey. "Aye, a bit to the southwest" 

"But how did it happen " I asked again. 

"Ah, wasn t he always a talker?" said Old 
Mickey. 

"But what did he do?" I asked. 

"Nothing only talked," said Old Mickey. 
"Sure he was always talking." 

"But how was he shot?" asked L 

"Ah, don t be wasting your sympathy on him," 
said Old Mickey, detecting some in my voice. "He 
brought it all on himself. Sure he never could 
keep his mouth shut." 

"Poor devil," said I. 

"Ah, what was he, only a Protestant? Not that 
anyone would think any the worse of him for that 
Sure it s the grandest religion in the world ; and no 
one would wish to hurt him on that account Only, 
sure, a man with a religion like that ought to be 
careful, and not be abusing the people s tolerance." 

"Who got him?" I asked. Not that the name of 
the man would have been likely to have conveyed 
anything to me, but only out of that politeness, that 
is I trust in all of us, and that makes us take at least 



292 MY IRELAND 

some passing interest in what is interesting the folk 
with whom we may be. 

But the question brought a dreamy look into Old 
Mickey s face, and he looked thoughtfully up at 
the sky and then shook his head. 

"Sure I never had any memory for names/ said 
he. 

Suddenly the fear came over me that Old Mickey 
would fail me. 

"The people like their new government, don t 
they?" I blurted out rather too hastily. 

But I could see by a far-away look in Old 
Mickey s eyes that he was thinking still of the body 
of Mike O Mahony, to the southwest in a ditch. 

"Always a talker," he said. "Aye, always a 
talker." 

And he closed his own lips, then, on the stem of 
his pipe. And not another word could I get from 
Old Mickey, except for his graceful farewells; 
whose abundant courtesies seem more than what 
one man can deserve, and which I would, therefore, 
like to share with my readers. 



5 = 



101 078